Coming into season 2019 off the back of a disappointing 2018 was always going to be a challenge, and one that was not taken lightly. The majority of the playing list was inexperienced, some having never played the game before, some in only their second season, one or two returning after a lengthy absence from the game – and scattered in between, a handful of guys with a little more experience.
Though the obvious aim of every competitive sport is to win, the objectives set out for the Reserve Grade this year was to create a foundation whereby skills are improved and the team is competitive, junior players are developed, and the promotion of players into Premier Division playing group supported.
Despite having ‘home ground’ advantage for the opening month of the season, the draw had the Reserve Grade coming up against the big guns. The trend of the previous season continued with the scoreboard in favour of the opposition by some considerable margins.
As the season progressed, the team learned to work together and signs of the plan coming together began to emerge. “That Game” (the Round 6 heart breaking 1-point loss on the siren against Camden) was the catalyst which produced a couple of fantastic mid-season games against UNSW, Sydney Uni and St George. The scoreboard didn’t do justice to the flow of those games; the opposition were placed under intense pressure, and on occasion were comprehensively beaten in the contest, however the skill, experience, depth and fitness of those teams ultimately prevailed.
On the odd occasion, the team required supplementing and called on Masters, under 19s, and some retired players to lend a hand, ensuring we had sufficient numbers on the park. This was particularly the case as the season progressed and injuries began to take their toll. For those who assisted, the team is grateful.
Round 13, 13th July against East Coast Eagles bore witness to the full turning of the tide as Reserve Grade fought back to steal a come-from-behind win – the first victory since the 2017 Division 2 Preliminary Final. The round was significant as all men’s teams (Prems, Reserves, Masters & U19s) had each come away with a victory (Women’s team had a bye).
Following a couple of disappointing weeks of player unavailability which impacted the results, a resurgence in numbers for the Round 17 clash against Manly ensured the Reserve Grade had the strongest team of the year available for this must win game. With the winner avoiding the wooden spoon, the boys were focussed, jumping out to a decent lead at the first break, though Manly were able to peg it back to under a kick going into the main break. Our boys were having none of that and stormed home, keeping Manly scoreless in the second half while nabbing 4 goals (and more than a few missed chances) of their own in a low scoring match to secure a second result of the year, winning by a very comfortable 37 points.
Backing up week after week following an average 72-point loss is a difficult ask. To their credit, the lads, though obviously disappointed, took it on the chin, kept cheerful, and most importantly returned the next week to fight again. The effort and attitude displayed by every player this season is testament to their determination to improve, and they should be justifiably proud of their efforts.
All things considered, the positives outweighed the negatives from season 2019. All of the objectives were met; there was improvement on the previous year, new players were introduced to the game, the team was competitive on-field, if not the scoreboard, and the added bonus of having achieved a couple of wins. The challenge for next season will be to convert the on-field competitiveness to reflect on the scoreboard, continue to improve, and of course, achieve a couple more wins to climb a few more rungs up the ladder.
Men’s Premier Division Reserves 2019 Awards
Bryon Woodbridge Medal – Ben Polley 35 Votes
Runner-up – Simon Stephens 34 votes
Most Consistent – Josh Rozairo 32 votes
Coaches Award – Justin Urbiztondo
Most Improved – Josh Skelton