Now that the middle of the season is here and with a weekend off for all grades it’s a good time to reflect on our efforts and performances in all grades so far and see where we can improve for the 2nd half of the season.
All grades suffered slow starts this year and that can be put down to a few factors. Certainly over the last 2 off seasons we’ve had a higher rate of player turnover in the club than normal and this has been one key factor in hampering our starts this year for all grades. This year was also a year where a large group of our very successful under 18’s side, which won the last 2 grand finals, have now transitioned up into senior football and this transition has had a two fold effect:
Firstly it meant we needed to recruit and rebuild our 18s age group which i believe we have done quite successfully through the efforts of Stinger (Rob Fenwick) and Alan Fitzgerald. The recent run of form of our Under 18s after an understandably slow start is evidence of this and having run the water for the 18s in their last match, I really have a sense that they are a team that is going to worry the competition in the 2nd round.
Secondly the transition of the Under 18s up into senior football, accompanied with the losses of Gus Mckellar and Andrew Farrell in particular and a lesser focus on recruiting heavily, meant that even more so than last year we would be fielding a very young and inexperienced group in our reserve and A grades.
Reserve grade have been the strongest starter of the 3 grades and it’s a credit to Stinger as their coach who has blended some young guns with a few older heads (especially his own!!) to some great results. Players in their first year out of 18s that have impressed include Josh Hancock, James Dempsey, Ben Atkins and Josh Glass and it’s tremendous to see a reserve grade side with a lot of youth performing well in what is usually a comp full of older, harder heads.
In A grade, a great first up performance against Highfields was then soured by a string of poor performances and defeats. Putting a finger on the reasons why has been hard with the things mentioned above the main factors. At the end of the day however, we are a young side and inconsistencies are going to be there. But i think it’s fair to say that in one or two of those losses our effort and particularly our belief slipped. Since trying a few different things we have finally settled on an approach of handing back a lot of responsibility to the players in terms of their preparation, communication and in particular their self evaluation. This approach has seemed so far to have a really beneficial effect on our young playing group and has seen big improvements over our last 3 matches which included 2 wins and a last minute loss at Dalby. Hopefully now that we are a more settled group and the players have had some time to get to know each other and each others game a bit more we will continue to see improvement.
As far as individuals there has been some great performances week in and week out but we have just struggled to turn a lot of those into team performances. Singling people out is not easy but the following players deserve mention.
Firstly our players who were part of the successful Toowoomba Clydesdales Rep side who went away to Gladstone recently and took out the Central Division title. Well done to Sam Capewell who was also the captain of the side and our other players Tyrone Jowett, Jason Sharpe, Bryce Denman and Luke Smith. Bryce was also selected into the Central Divison side which will go on to the state titles so we wish Bryce all the best and hopefully he can impress and achieve a spot in the Qld side.
In our club games it has been great to see Ryan Stevens slowly evolving into a more mature and all round halfback. Ryan played last year alongside Gus Mckellar in the halves and stepping out of that shadow has been tough. After some shakiness and hesitation Ryan has proved over the last month that he has learned a lot of lessons, worked hard to improve and that he will be one of the class halves of this competition very soon.
It was a big boost for us also to receive back 2 very good footballers for different reasons early in the season.
Firstly, Jarrod Dodd returned from under 20s football at Penrith and has bolstered our backline enormously, especially in defence. And Rian Cherry, after a couple of years away from football, also returned and has filled the gap at hooker left by Andrew Farrell. Both players are getting better each week as they fit in with the guys that were here from the start of preseason.
Certainly at times through this start of the season everyone has had there ups and downs but slowly the ups are starting to become more frequent than the downs and we are getting a little closer to consistency.
The final player i’d like to single out is someone who sums up everything we value in a player at Valleys and someone who I think has really stood up and given his heart and soul each and every week. Darren Schwerin plays every game with passion and enthusiasm and is not only a good footballer to go with it but also an incredibly loyal person and player for the Valleys Football Club. ‘Fatty’ puts his tiny frame on the line every play of every game, is happy to cover nearly every position on the field when need be and is one person who sacrifices the ‘me’ for the ‘we’ at all times. We’re lucky to have him and the lead he sets in his attitude towards playing for this club is something our entire young squad should try to emulate. Fat has had a great start to the year football wise, as good as I’ve seen him play in the last 3 years, but what he offers to our young side is worth so much more.
We are all really looking forward to the 2nd phase of the competition. There are huge challenges ahead which include alot of tough away games and every 2 points is going to be crucial. The last 3 weeks have shown that our sides all want to be there come finals and never once has anyone accepted losses or poor performances during this period which is proven by the quality we have kept in our training throughout. Things are looking positive going forward but nothing is just going to happen without a lot of hard work.