Going into his third season as head coach of the Belconnen Magpies senior first grade team, Jeremy ‘Rowey’ Rowe is looking to push his boys to go one better in season 2016.

Rowey (centre) welcoming new additions to the team // Photo by Michael O’Brien

Belconnen managed to go undefeated through the 15 regular season games last year, followed by a convincing seven-goal victory over second placed Tuggeranong in their Semi Final. Unfortunately, they fell at the final hurdle, losing the Grand Final to Queanbeyan. However, much like any fallen hurdles runner, Rowey is looking to pick his side up and get them there again this year.

“We respect that the 2015 premiership is in fact Queanbeyan’s and we can’t get it back,” he says. “So we’re going in motivated because we want to be the best side in Canberra – and of course we want to atone, but revenge really isn’t a theme. It’s just wanting to play well for the sake of playing well each week, 2015 is gone now and we’re all about 2016.”

There have been some key changes in personnel for the first grade side ahead of the 2016 season.

“As far as personnel is concerned we lost a large chunk of our backline,” says Rowe. “Five of the seven backs on the day have departed with Luke Wharton going to the SANFL, Jack Baker going to the NEAFL, Daniel Jordan and Timothy Smith going to Wagga and Glen Currie going to Goulburn. So we’ve experienced some player loss, mainly for good reason with guys wanting to play at a higher level, which is always something we’ve supported. We’ve also had some guys come back; solid first grade players from previous years and that will certainly strengthen our side. If we’re only talking about personnel, we’re probably a couple down, but if we’re talking about the right amount of development to have us somewhere around about the same, I’m not disappointed with where we’re at.”

Having spent some time at training, it seemed that the Magpies were training in large numbers. I asked Rowey if he was looking at transitioning some previously second grade players up into the first grade side.

“There’s definitely opportunity there for these guys and we’ve been really happy with Alexander Jones, Jamie Clough and Jeff Dowdell. They’re three guys who we really need to step up and so far so good, both with training and their commitment to pushing themselves to achieve the standards required. They have put in really good performances in the two trials.”

Magpies running through drills at training // Photo by Michael O’Brien

Belconnen have played two pre-season trial matches with convincing wins over North Wagga and the Sydney Hills Eagles. With the match against Sydney last weekend serving as their final hit-out of the pre-season, I asked Rowey his thoughts on the ten goal victory.

“It was really heartening, it was the one we felt was a full dress rehearsal and we were going to mark ourselves pretty hard on it. We came away really positive and yeah I’m quite happy about that.”

Looking forward to Belconnen’s first match, it doesn’t take place until round three, starting with two byes and then again another bye in round four. I asked Rowey whether he thought the disrupted start to the season would affect the team.

“Look not really, like without sort of just saying what I should say, I really do mean it when we don’t lend ourselves to making excuses about the draw and those sorts of things. We’ve known about it for long enough now to prepare. We would have liked another trial but we’ll run another internal between now and our first game. We definitely expect to be ready to go and don’t expect for it to be too much of a distraction for us.”

It seems fitting to give the final word to Rowey on how he sees his Belconnen boys faring in season 2016.

“Again, without just giving you the company line, we’re pretty understanding this year is going to be fairly challenging week to week. We’re not looking to be underdogs, we’re not coming back wanting to fly under the radar. We’re here wanting to put ourselves in the lime light and push ourselves to be the best side again. We realise we’re going to have really stiff competition and we want to be right up there, which means every week we’ve got to be sharp.”

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Michael O'Brien

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