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HEAD COACH MID SEASON REPORT 2018

The following is a historical story shared in a recent note to the players about commitment, what is required for the remainder of the season and playing tough.

In 1519, the Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando Cortez decided that he wanted to seize the treasure that the Aztecs had been hoarding.  He took 500 soldiers and 100 sailors and landed his 11 ships on the shores of the Yucatan.  Despite the large army under his command, he was still vastly outnumbered by a huge and powerful empire that had been around for 600 years.

 Some of his men were unconvinced of success, and being loyal to Cuba, they tried to seize some ships to escape to there.  Cortez got wind of the plot, and captured the ringleaders. He wanted to make sure that the remainder of his men were completely committed to his mission and quest for riches, so he did something that seemed completely insane to his people:  Cortez gave the order to burn his own ships.

 His men resisted, wondering how they would even get home, and his answer was:  “If we are going home, we are going home in their ships!”

The path forward was clear for Cortez – All or nothing, 100% commitment.  The option of failure was gone – Conquer as heroes, or die.

 The ships were sunk – He kept a single ship to send back the “royal fifth” (the king of Spain claimed 20% of all treasures).  By doing this, the level of commitment of the men was raised to an extreme level, much higher than anyone could have imagined.

 Incredibly, they succeeded in this unlikely feat.  In six hundred years, no one else had been able to conquer the Aztecs and plunder their riches.  They were able to do it simply because there was no choice, no fallback – the ships were gone, the only alternative was death.

 The lesson is this:

 Retreat is easy when you let yourself have the option.

 This story of the Spanish Conquistador beating the odds is really a story about commitment. Commitment is critical to success – nothing of significance can be achieved without it. By focusing on commitment, we forge our own future.

PLAYING TOUGH AND MEETING THE CHALLENGES

It has been a hard start to the season both on and off the field.

The following are some of the challenges the playing group have been dealing with and are by no means excuses but the reality of the first half of the season.

  1. The Season Draw

 Moving into the season the coaches and playing group were fully aware of the tough draw we had been scheduled, playing 5 of the 2017 season’s finalists twice on a home and away basis.

Colts particularly had the toughest draw first up playing all the top 4 teams with an abundance of playing depth.

What compounded the tough draw for West Harbour and some other teams was the withdrawal of Penrith from the competition, turning the draw into a lopsided benefit for those teams that played Penrith twice in regard to competition points and rest periods in a very tight competition.

The majority of the teams have played tough the first half of the season and are not far off despite the hard draw. Lessons learnt from the first half of the competition should hold the playing group in good stead to finish the season off well.

The path forward was clear for Cortez – All or nothing, 100% commitment

  1. Player Movement

 The positive is that the Club’s Player Development Programs are being widely recognised and tracked by players, agents and professional teams, in that we have had an unusual number of player turnover of top line players with Phil Potgieter, Dave Lolohea and Albert Tuisue, moving onto representative and professional contracts early in the season.

Add fractures and injuries to Kawa Leauma, Justin Marsters and Rhys Brodie, means a domino effect down through the grades in terms of player depth and team stability.

Couple this with Penrith being withdrawn from the competition and new players coming to the club in the last 4 weeks – it makes training feel like pre-season with all the players having to learn the base structures over again.

Colts have been quite a transient group this year with enough numbers to field 3 teams, but training and attendance commitment has been inconsistent.

Although best laid plans for the second year in a row, the club finds itself rebuilding the 1st Grade playing squad spine as well as accelerating players development in an attempt to compete and make finals. Again this type of player movement has ramifications on team stability across the club.

Recent game performances by the teams indicate that players are starting to understand collectively what it is going to take to consistently perform. The last 7 games of the regular season are going to be big.

Commitment is critical to success – Nothing of significance can be achieved without it. By focusing on commitment, we forge our own future.

  1. Club Financial Crisis

The financial crisis the club has found itself in does impact on the players on multiple fronts.

As cost cutting is implemented and all expenditure must be approved and accounted for, social events and team dinners, which are an integral part of all rugby clubs, are limited.

Players are naturally asked to dig deeper and contribute further to the recovery plan in helping their club get back on its feet. As we all do, the players are naturally worried about the future of the club and if it will be sustainable to compete in 2019 and beyond in Sydney Premiership Rugby. The current playing group has genuine care for the club, shown by the numbers that turned up to the last years AGM.

Other clubs have been circling some of our top line players with enticements of financial incentives to move across this season.

All of this is unsettling for the players, however, as expected we have some very determined and loyal Pirates.

In six hundred years, no one else had been able to conquer the Aztecs and plunder their riches.  They were able to do it simply because there was no choice, no fallback – the ships were gone, the only alternative was death.

TEAM REPORT

1st Grade

1st Grade is yet to play their best rugby. Comparisons will be made to last

year’s squad, but technically this is a new squad that are learning to play together on top of a significant amount of personnel changes to the backbone of the team. The squad is just starting to understand what it will take to consistently win, however, the resolve of the group to do well each week is strong and positive – referees and opposition coaches regularly comment in this regard. The last eight games should hopefully see some consolidation of the squad and is critical to attaining a finals birth in 2018.

2nd Grade

2nd Grade is traditionally the hardest team to coach at any club as the players strive to understand what it takes to play in 1st grade regularly. Like 1st Grade the squad has been severely hampered by injuries and a lack of squad stability due to the transient nature of the competition this year. 2nd Grade have lost the last two games after the bell and are close to a breakthrough game performance. The back end of the season is critical with 2nd Grade.

3rd Grade

The 3rd Grade squad has probably the biggest potential with numerous talented players, but like all the teams suffer from the lack of stability of the squad and player training commitment. Like last season, a number of the players are focused on issues out of their control and that are not conducive to performance. Third grade, if they can pull it together, may scrape into the finals if they finish the last 8 games and results go their way.

4th Grade

Like last season 4th Grade can play finals rugby in 2018 if they can commit totally and focus every game. Inconsistent game day attitude and performance is really holding the squad back. Last season they missed the final series by one win and will not want to repeat that.

Colts 1

Colts 1 have turned a corner the last 3 games in terms of their on-field performance. Whilst they can not make the finals I believe they will be the team the second part of the season that no teams want to play as they are very dangerous with balI in hand. From a club perspective, it is essential we retain this colts group as they will develop into very good grade teams with further dedicated development.

Colts 2

Colts 2 have struggled with consistency of numbers to training and therefore struggled with consistent performance on game day. Like Colts 1, they have turned a corner and are starting to put some good period of play together for the last 3 games. There is a lot of talent in this group of colts.

Colts 3

The bottom line Colts 3 is hit and miss with a very lethargic attitude from over half of our registered player numbers not attending training. We have enough registered Colts players to field 4 teams, but with this age group at the moment overtime and study commitments take priority.

POSITIVE SIGNS

In 2017 the Board developed a strategic plan to pick the club up off the canvas and the bottom half of the competition ladder in all Grades.

The 2018 season has presented further challenges, disruptions and crisis on and off the field and although the Club is literally having to start the implementation of the strategic plan again this year, as year 1 of the strategic plan there is positive evidence of substantial progress on and off the field.

The committee is savvy, working hard to rectify the issues and build strong partnerships on and off field and are strongly led by President Siobhan Seiuli.

All teams are playing tougher rugby than they did last year. Those players that are committed are learning fast and enjoying everything on offer. All our teams on their day can beat any other team in the competition. It comes down to the collective determination and commitment of players in each team.

Recent performances by most indicate a strong finish to the 2018 season by the entire club. There is a lot to play for over the last 8 games of the season with teams playing for pride, development and finals.

More importantly in 2017 the Playing Group believed they started a legacy of turning the ship around. The 2018 playing group will be remembered for how they finish the last 8 games of this season and the continuation of the Legacy established in 2017.

The successful Rugby Clubs are those with a collective group of people who understand the value of hard work and contribute on and off the field willingly to betterment of the entire club. As they say the more you put in the more you will receive back from the experience.

It’s that time of the season when true Pirates stand up and be counted.

Bang Bang Pirate Gang!

Head Coach

Todd Louden

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