2017 QLD Premier Rugby Season Preview: Wests
A brand-spanking new club house, a renovated field and a rejuvenated squad has the Dogs barking ahead of the 2017 Premier Rugby season.
2016 saw Wests essentially play away games all season as they set up a temporary base at Kenmore Rugby Club in Brisbane’s far western suburbs.
However, now that construction has been completed, the Bulldogs are returning to their Kennel this year and looking to put some bite back in their play.
Head coach Pat Byron has brought in some new playing recruits – including former Bronco and new Reds recruit, Lachlan Maranta – and a new coaching team to put some starch in the green and gold harlequin jersey.
But it’s the holistic ambition of improving as an entire club that should get Wests’ fans really excited.
Last year’s results: 9th (2 wins, 14 losses)
Ins: Lachlan Maranta (Brisbane Broncos); Matt Ika and Bart Richie (Norths); Harry Struss.
Outs: Tyrone Lefau (Norths), Tim Smith (Easts), Joel Brown (Bond University).
Coaching team: Pat Byron (Head Coach), Michael Broad (Skills), Even Willis and Fletcher Dyson (Forwards), Tony Cross (Backs)
Captain: Alec Jones
Overview with Head Coach, Pat Byron:
“It’s been super positive so far, which is good. Being able to get back to Wests has been enormous for everyone involved in the club, from players to support staff to the supporters themselves. The last two years were very disjointed in terms of the transition from the old Sylvan Road to the new Sylvan Road, particularly last year where we didn’t have a home ground or clubhouse or any facilities. So to go from nothing to a pretty amazing facility has been fantastic for everyone involved,” Byron said about the redevelopment of Wests traditional home in Toowong.
“The players can see what the club’s worked towards off the field and now we’re working towards creating something good on the field also.”
“The ground itself is in great knick, and there’s a whole lot more positivity around everything that’s happening and the fact that we’ve reinvigorated the squad with a number of new players is also really good.”
“So far (preseason) has been pretty good. We had a good performance against Souths a couple of weeks ago and a not so great performance against Easts on the weekend. But in terms of what we’re doing it seems good at the moment and we’re really looking forward to starting the season off against University in a couple of weeks.”
Key areas of improvement:
“The main area we’ve been trying to develop is our skills,” revealed Byron.
“Improving our skills, improving our defence and improving our set piece would be the main areas and that’s why we’ve brought in the coaches that we have. We brought in Michael Broad to specifically develop our skills. We brought in Fletcher Dyson (former Queensland Reds and Wallabies prop) to sure up our set piece, particularly at scrum time. And also, defensively we know that’s just something we need to improve across the board, in all grades at the club.”
“Last year there probably wasn’t a whole lot of support around there (the coaching department) but I’m really happy with it now and getting guys like Broady and Fletch in is excellent and Tony Cross coming back after having a few years away is very good.”
“Those areas I spoke of – skills, defence and set piece – we needed to improve throughout the club. You look at the successful clubs in recent years, such as Brothers and University, they’re successful in every grade.”
“So that shows what great depth they’ve got and the systems they’ve got in place are working within their club. So a club such as Wests, we want to try an emulate that success and the only way to do it is to ensure that you’ve got great depth throughout your club from Premier grade to second grade, from Premier Colts to Colts Two.”
“The Colts program is something which we’ve been trying really hard to improve over the last few years” Byron revealed.
“One area that we’re excited about at the club is that this will probably be our most competitive and best Colts team that we’ve put out for a number of years. We’re hoping that the success of the Colts program combined with the rejuvenation of the Premier program will hopefully lead to some success this year, but also, and probably more importantly, over the next few years.”
Player/s to watch:
“Alec Fontalvo’s had a great start to the season and Byron Hutchinson is also looking very good in the backs” said the coach.
“Getting Effie Mafu back after the Queensland 20s and possibly the Australian 20s will be a good boost for the club because he’s an outstanding performer for the Queensland 20s.”
What are your hopes/expectations for the season?
“Like all teams, you want to make the top four and then once you make the top four, anything can happen” Byron said.
“Our big goal as a club isn’t just to be a competitive team, it’s to be a winning team. So we’re definitely targeting a top four finish, and we’ll see what happens come finals time.”
Who will your team play in the grand final?
“If I had to guess, I’d probably guess Brothers or Uni. Those two are definitely the leaders of the pack at the moment and it’s up to everyone to improve and try to catch them” declared Byron.