With a versatile young squad, freshly refurbished oval, and recently appointed strength and conditioning coach, the Queanbeyan Whites are proving to be heavy contenders ahead of this year’s John I Dent Cup.
After a crushing defeat to rivals Canberra Royals in last year’s preliminary final, Whites coach Adam Fahey has overhauled the club’s training regime to achieve their premiership dream.
“We’ve changed the way we train in our physical preparation, gym, speed, recovery,” Fahey said. “All that sort of stuff that’s probably gone unnoticed where we’ve just focused more on the on-field sort of training but there’s a lot more preparation that go into being a successful club.”
“You can do as many skills as you like but at the end of the day it’s the teams that make the right decisions under pressure that win games and whilst there’s a need for skills, and we’re very aware of that, we try and incorporate skills into our game-base drills.”
The arrival of Josh Strawn as a strength and conditioning coach has also brought an added level of professionalism to operations.
Fahey, who is now into his fourth year as coach of the first grade side, believes Strawn has made an immediate impact on the team’s physical ability.
“I can see it and the players can see it that he’s made a massive difference already,” he said.
“In summer the guys were walking around and spending more time in front of the mirror than they ever had before so that’s always a positive.”
Team captain and long-time club member Dan Penca is hopeful the team can add to the titles won in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
The 27-year-old had his pre-season training interrupted by an ankle reconstruction in November but has returned in time for the start of the season as the Whites begin their push for silverware.
Penca said he and his teammates are looking forward to playing what could be their best rugby yet but doesn’t want to the team to “peak too early” in the season.
“Obviously the main goal for myself and the team is to win the premiership,” the skipper said.
“To get to that goal we’ve got to tick off little goals before that so we’d like to win all home games and obviously build on week to week. I guess a realistic goal would be making top four so we have an opportunity to play in the grand final.”
This year’s squad is a reflection of Fahey’s passion for developing young talent.
Fahey has coached many of the club’s members since they were juniors and is proud to see them playing senior football.
“I think it’s a strength because they’re always energetic and enthusiastic, they want to be here, there’s no old habits with them, they’re all fresh and new, they’re bouncing around, it’s good,” he said.
The raw energy of the youngsters in the squad will be complemented by the additions of new Brumbies players Andrew Smith and Michael Wells, alongside existing squad members Robbie Coleman, Les Leulua’iali’i-Makin and Tevita Kuridrani.
“It’s a catch 22,” Fahey said.
“Hopefully they don’t play too much for us because they’re playing for the Brumbies being professionals but they’ll be welcomed with both arms here, they’ll fit in very well.”
Home ground advantage will mean just that this season for the Whites thanks to a $37-thousand redevelopment of Campese Oval by the NSW Government, turning the old “car-park” of a field into a luscious stretch of grass.
“The refurbishment’s been great for us but at the same time its not good because opposition will want to come here now and play here,” Fahey laughed.
Round one of the season will provide an immediate opportunity for the Whites to dispel the demons of the previous campaign, taking on the Royals in a rematch of last year’s preliminary final on April 2nd.
Fahey expects the game to be a great start to the competition.
“There’s just a great respect from the players when they run on. The respect for each other creates the rivalry [between Royals and the Whites],” Fahey said.
“It’s always a ding-dong battle that’s for sure. Great games to watch and be a part of.”