As The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup pre-season gets underway it’s hard to pick who is more excited – the players or the coaches.
Mounties head coach Mick Potter has been putting his players through their paces recently for the first time since June, when The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup competition was suspended (and later cancelled) after Round 15.
Potter can’t wait for Round One in March 2022.
“I really missed the contest and just watching guys improve, watching them learn, and occasionally giving them a tip here and there to try something a little different,” he told nswrl.com.
“Just giving them the encouragement that they’re doing a really good job – reinforcing that is one of the delights of coaching.
“Trying to get the team to win as well is another because winning is part of the joy of competition, of getting individuals and clubs to be successful.”
North Sydney Bears coach Jason Taylor has similarly missed the banter with his players.
“Helping them to improve is the number one priority and they really do appreciate when you put some time into them,” Taylor said. “And as a club we had a positive season.
“We had guys go from being part-time footy at the start of 2021 and then go into the full-time squad at the Roosters,” he said referring to Ben Marschke and Ben Thomas.
“This time last year they were training with us and next week they’ll be with the Roosters squad, which is great for them but also great for the whole pathway we’re building here.”
Potter had three players - wingers Falakiko Manu, Watson Heleta and centre Aaron Schoupp – train with the Bulldogs in 2021. Schoupp played 13 NRL games, scoring three tries.
Potter is expecting changes in personnel to his Mounties squad in 2022.
“A few players jump on the merry-go-round a little bit – feel like they need a change – or sometimes their managers have been able to get them a start in an NRL squad,” he said.
“You’ve got to wish them well and hopefully they get to where they want to go. Part of our job is to encourage them along to become NRL players.
“It’s great that guys can get those opportunities because it’s a career move for them.”
Both Potter and Taylor have had to strategically plan the pre-season with their strength and conditioning staff taking into account that players missed the last 10 weeks of the season.
“I hadn’t seen the guys for three months - some came back in really good shape and others not so good,” Potter said. “We’ll adapt to how they are and work our training in these early weeks from there.
“Planning-wise we’re preparing to start just a bit slower than what we would if we’d been coming off a full season.”
Taylor added: “There’s some guys that have used the time really well and are looking really fit – they’ve put weight on in the right fashion – but there’s definitely a few others that haven’t.
“So we need to do some testing and we have to be careful with that if players really haven’t done anything that’s been very physically demanding.
“It’s just great to be back to be honest. Everyone was really happy to be there – very positive in that regard and just hopeful that the season gets happening and finishes.
“We got so much of last season played so it was really hard to see it cancelled.”
Potter said the players’ wish list was a simple one after COVID-19 disrupted 2020 and 2021.
“Rolling out a full season, home-and-away matches, with your regular finals and grand final would be nice. Everyone can get to show what they’ve got,” Potter said.
“There’s been no feeder clubs playing for three months so the NRL clubs would be keen to see those second-and-third tiers have a semi-normal season.”