Easts 2017 QLD Premier Rugby Season Review – With Anthony Connellan

With Issac Rodda, Izaia Perese and Liam Wright spending most of the season with the Reds, it was never going to be easy for Easts in 2017. The Tigers lost five matches by seven points or less this season, ending any hope of a finals appearance. However coach Anthony Connellan is confident a bigger Easts’ side can be competitive in 2018.

Overview with Anthony Connellan:

“We missed the finals by two losses and lost five or so games by less than seven points. Quite a few of them were by three or four points, so that was the story of our season really,” Easts’ coach Anthony Connellan said.

“It’s definitely a disappointing result for us. We had a clear goal going into the season to make the finals, so it’s disappointing to miss that by a couple of wins but at the end of the day, I don’t think we were travelling well enough to trouble the top three teams anyway by the end.

“If we’re being honest, we probably got what we deserved this year. We had too many inconsistent performances and you can see that in our results. We struggled closing out games and had some inexperience in our halves and decision makers. Our kicking game wasn’t up to scratch and that hurt us in some of those tight finishes.

“We probably lacked some physical dominance in both attack and defence. We lost six games to the three biggest sides in the comp – GPS, Souths and Sunnybank. They just belted us and we couldn’t handle it.

In saying that, I think we had some highlights. We were a young side that improved from the year before. Our reserve grade side got deep into the finals as well so that was pleasing for our depth.

“At our best, we offered lots of good options in attack but we probably just need to work a bit harder on our physicality. Our shapes and patterns were all skill based and if there is one area that we were happy with this year, it was probably our skill in attack. We knew how to use width across the field and find space that way, rather than trying to smash through the middle.

“Again, we talk about inconsistencies but on our day we were a really good defensive side. At the end of the last round, we kept GPS to 14 points, so there were days where we aimed up and days when we didn’t.

“We’ve got blokes in the gym already and we’re trying to add some size to the guys we’ve already got. One of the things Easts’ tend to do really well is retain players and we should have most of the guys back against next year. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring a few new players in, particularly in the tight five. We were a little light on there this year. I don’t think we’ll see much of Andrew Ready and Kirwan Sanday got injured at the end of the NRC, so tight forwards are a target for us.”

Standout player(s):

“We had a couple. Toby White has been a stalwart at the club for a while now and brings that cool head, experience and leadership. His ability to get over the gain line is pretty well unmatched at this level, he was great again. He possibly may head over to the UK next year, a few opportunities are sounding quite promising, which is really good. He hasn’t got the opportunities here that we think he should have, but I think he’ll have a real impact wherever he plays,” Connellan said.

“A few of our young guys were great as well. Richie Asiata is starting to crack into that NRC level and had a great season for us. He added a lot of go forward as a ball carrying prop and his set piece is improving significantly, so I think he’s one to look out for over the next 12 months.

“Jack Frampton came through our colts system and unfortunately had a few injuries this year and only played a handful of games for us at fullback, but he added a new level of x factor that we probably didn’t have before. He’s got great speed and evasion and when he went back and played the last few finals games in reserves, he proved to be a class above.”

Which of your non contracted players deserves to go onto higher honours?

This year we had Issac Rodda, Izzy Perese and Liam Wright all step up and have big seasons with the Reds. When we spoke at the start of the year, we had those three penciled in to play a fair bit of footy for us but they just jumped out of the ground this year, which is unreal, but unfortunate for us.

“They’re our young brigade, but I’d add Richie Asiata to that next list. I’m hopeful that over the next 12 months, he’ll put some pressure on at Ballymore with a bit of luck, he’s certainly good enough,” the coach added.

What needs to happen at Easts between now and round one next year?

“That’s the million dollar question isn’t it. I spoke earlier about our physicality and our aggression so that’s got to be a big focus. We just got outmuscled in a few games. Other areas around our game management can also improve, we need to control things more towards the end of games and look to improve some of our decision making and kicking.

“Lastly, I think we need to have a bit more desire. This year, we seemed happy to just be in the contest and be almost good enough but we need to shake that up. We need to decide if we want to be there at the end of the year or not and if we do, we’ll need to change some of our training and game day traits to make sure that we’re in the mix.”

Bold prediction for 2018 season:

“It’s very early days and honestly I haven’t been following the recruiting at other clubs but certainly from our point of view, we’re a proud club that expects to be playing finals, so that is going to be a big goal. I think the players understand where we fell short this year and what we need to do to change those results,” he said.

“Uni and GPS were a cut above this year and Sunnybank are a side that we’ve really struggled with over the last couple of years. I don’t see much changing there because they’re also teams that seem to keep players as well. Those three will be right up there and we’ll be chasing hard.”