2017 QLD Premier Rugby Season Preview: GPS
By Michael Atkinson
It’s been more than 20 long years since Jeeps won their last premiership. In 2013 they came close, but went down to Easts in the final 27-22 .
There is no doubt that the longevity of this premiership drought nags at every player and supporter of the Green and Blue.
The past two seasons have been below par in terms of ladder positions for this proud club, however, there is renewed hope for 2017.
Former Queensland Reds and Jeeps prop Anthony Mathison has returned as head coach; fresh from helping Brothers to the 2016 Premier Rugby title.
With him he has brought a new coaching team, some new players and helped reinvigorate the existing stocks at Yoku Road.
Last year’s results: 6th (7 wins, 9 losses)
Ins: AJ Alatimu (Perth Spirit), Leaoni Mulikahaamea (Perth Spirit), Eric Vasukicacau (Perth Spirit), Ma’alonga Konelio (Perth Spirit), Noah Tuqiri (Fiji), Pat Smith (sabbatical), Anthony Mathison (Brothers, Head Coach), Elwee Prinsloo (Perth, Assistant Coach).
Outs: Steve Hunt (Souths), Dan Early (injured), Lagi Setu (not playing).
Coaching team: Anthony Mathison – Head Coach, Elwee Prinsloo – Assistant Coach.
Overview with Anthony Mathison:
“We’ve been really happy with how preseason has gone. A big focus for us has been maximizing how productive our training has been, so we’ve focussed on the intensity of our activities and making sure that when we’re completing an activity it’s happening at 100% rather than just going through the motions. So I’m really pleased with the attitude in that area.
“We’re trying to create a really positive environment where guys want to continually get better, want to turn up for training and feel as though they’ve achieved something.
“The guys have really bought in to that approach and we’d like to think that with every session we are getting better in some particular areas.
“To play the way we want to play we need to develop the skill set of our players, so we’ve had a massive focus on skill development throughout the preseason to make sure that we can perform those skills at the highest intensity at training and on game day.
“(Coming from Brothers last year) some of the off field and on field behaviours, approach to training and preparation for games are certainly areas that I think we can learn from at GPS.”
“(Elwee coming from Perth) is a big reason that a lot of those new guys have ended up at Jeeps. When he first came on board we spoke about areas where we needed to improve and those guys married up pretty nicely with where we wanted to strengthen the squad.”
Key areas of improvement:
“Last year Jeeps, obviously, were a win or so short of playing finals football. Look at their record defensively, they finished third in terms of points conceded, but in terms of points scored and four-try bonus points, that was something that really needed work.
“Being able to expand our attack and also make sure we had the sort of players, particularly in the outside backs, to enable us to be a strike force in that area was really important for us, and I think we’ve done that.”
“Another really important area was probably the game management and goal kicking side of things. There were a number of games, I think five, that Jeeps lost by a try or less.
“In a couple of those, a higher percentage of goal kicking accuracy may have seen that result swing and potentially they would have finished higher up the table. So we’ve spent some time in, not just bringing guys in to those areas, but improving the skills in those areas as well.”
Player/s to watch:
“We’re certainly very hopeful that the new guys have a big impact on how we play. They’re quality guys coming in to the system so we like to think they’ll bring their own contribution to our group.”
“A guy like Feleti Ka’aitu (hooker) will take another step this year. His preparation and focus in the preseason has been fantastic, certainly physically he’s in really good shape.
“For someone who’s experienced a reasonable amount of rep football and is still a young guy, he’s someone who can really go to another level for us this year.”
“Then you’ve got the usual suspects – Dan Gorman, James Herbert and Todd Winkley – who’ve been very consistent performers for Jeeps and we think they’ll continue to play good footy this season.”
What are you hopes/expectations for the season?
“We want to play finals. One of the appeals of Jeeps for me is how close they were last year.
“Knowing there were some areas of the squad that we could strengthen, which we’ve done, and also some areas or some limitations in place with how they played the game which (without those) could’ve seen some of those results change last year.
“They were so close last year, if just a couple games went the other way, Jeeps play finals.”
“We’re optimistic. We’re happy with where we’re at currently, but until we test ourselves in the competition we won’t really know. But we certainly want to be there at the back end of the season.”
Who will your team play in the grand final?
“I think clearly University and Brothers are going to be the benchmark teams.
“There may be some changes in personnel but the depth they’ve got in both those clubs will mean they’ll be thereabouts.
“I think Souths as well have made some good signings in the off season so I think they’ll be there in the back end. If I had to pick one, I’d say University.”