Premier Rugby: Young Bulldogs Stepping up in Pre-Season

By Finn Morton; Photo: QRU Media Unit – Brendan Hertel

Wests showed plenty of promise in 2019.

The Bulldogs reduced to go down without a fight and fought to the end of the season in an attempt to regain control of their fading finals chances.

But bonus point losses to the four eventual finalists in as many weeks brought an end to their season.

The Bulldogs had plenty of youth in their line-up last season, and are expected to again in 2020.

So Wests have brought in a coach who knows how to get the best out of younger players.

Carl Marshall has played and coached the Colts’ program at Wests, been an assistant coach for the Australian U20s and coached with Brothers at Premier Grade Level.

He’s been impressed with what he’s seen from his young side throughout pre-season so far and is confident that the squad can deliver success to the western suburbs.

“The squad is looking particularly promising. We’ve managed to build some depth in some key positions,” Marshall told Rugby News.

“We have lost some of our more experienced players who have seized other rugby opportunities around the world.

“This has given some of the younger players an opportunity to play Premier Grade and we are keen to help develop them so that they can achieve their rugby aspirations as well.”

Now towards the end of his first pre-season as a Premier Grade Head Coach since 2017, Marshall admitted that he’s changed his approach slightly. 

With a younger squad, he’s putting more of an onus on his players ahead of the 2020 season. 

“I haven’t really changed anything from when I last coached at this level but I’ve been more strategic around how it is implemented.

“The leadership component has probably been the biggest push this year as we want players to be able to solve problems themselves with less influence from coaches.

“The pre-season has been very encouraging. The players have really embraced the player-centred approach that we’ve been advocating.

“The training behaviours – our ‘Standard of Performance’ – have been co-constructed with both players and coaches…putting ourselves in a good position to fulfil our potential and inspire our community.”

With Christmas having come and gone, all Premier Grade clubs are now turning their attention to the upcoming trial matches.

Marshall wants his side to focus on structures a bit more, but drastically changing his approach isn’t part of his plans with matches only a few weeks away. 

“The approach to training hasn’t changed too much compared to the work we were doing before Christmas.

“We have become more specific with elements of the game such as structured attack, set-piece work and defensive systems.”

Wests kick-off their season in Round 1 against Sunnybank at home on the 21st of March.