It was halfway through last season when the Queanbeyan Blues Rugby League Club was rocked by the news that club legend, Doug Crampton, had passed away.
Crampton, who was a member of Men in League and friend to all within the Queanbeyan region, played seven seasons for the Queanbeyan blues from 1969 to 1975.
At what was a very sad time for the Blues, their first grade team lifted in the first match following Crampton’s death, defeating the Belconnen Sharks 56 points to 10.
This strong form continued for the rest of the 2015 season, as the Blues went on to win their second consecutive Canberra Raiders Cup trophy.
Having lost many players to retirement and other clubs, Queanbeyan Blues first grade coach, Simon Woolford believes that it is important new recruits understand what it means to play for the club.
“It is always sad when a club legend like Doug passes away… and they [new players] need to understand the history of the Queanbeyan Blues and what it means to play for them,” he said.
Woolford insists that even when the club isn’t playing their best footy, the spirit within the club and amongst players remains high.
“We have a bunch [of players] here where playing for the blues means a lot to them and I think that is why you see week in week out even though at times we don’t play our best footy, it is not too often we do not have a real dig for each other,” he said.
Last season the Blues finished with the best defensive record in the competition, only conceding 242 points for the year.
Given the new team environment, Woolford does not expect the same nine game in a row winning start like last season, but he does insist that defence will always be the key for a successful year.
“It is always a focus for us, sixty to seventy-five percent of our training is defence orientated…we just need to be able to defend together while under fatigued and we have spent a lot of time on that in preseason,” he said.
Having played last season for the Woden Valley Rams, new recruit Damien Cheatham is certainly feeling the pressure this preseason, however, he is excited to work with coach Woolford.
“He knows a lot of stuff and obviously he was a dummy half when he played football so that is going to help me out a lot,” said Cheatham.
Having lost many key experienced players, the Blues still have plenty of quality all around the park, and one player who is keen for the upcoming season is the Blues goal kicker, Craig Wilkinson.
Wilkinson was the top point scorer in the 2015 season, kicking 70 goals and scoring a combined total of 172 points throughout the year. Wilkinson believes that the success from last season came from the training paddock and he says that his goal kicking success just comes naturally.
“Goal kicking is one of those things that you work really hard on when you are younger and then it just comes along naturally,” he said.
It’s expected to be a more difficult start to this season, given the many new faces to the club and pressure from having won the last two competitions, however, the Blues hard work on the training paddock and club spirit will make them tough competitors.
The Blues begin their title defence against the Gungahlin Bulls at Seiffert Oval on Sunday, April 9 at 3:00pm.