Former Raider, Troy Thompson, has returned to his junior club, signing on as the head coach of the West Belconnen Warriors.
After ten years in the National Rugby League and over 160 caps, Thompson has finally returned to the place where it all began for him, signing a two-year coaching contract with the West Belconnen Warriors.
The 2005 joint Raiders Player of the Year coached the Gungahlin Bulls last season, but admits that his heart has always been with his childhood club.
“I was keen to get back here last year when I first moved back, but Justin (Giteau) and Jeremy (Braun) were still coaching,” says Thompson. “I ended up coaching one of the other sides, but my heart has always been with West Belconnen. The club has been awesome to me so I want to try and give something back… Fingers crossed we can do really well this year.”
To do this, the new coach has highlighted fitness and defense as keys to success for the upcoming season, looking to build on the work Justin Giteau did at the club last year.
“Last year, the boys came third and the previous year they came last so we have to try and build on what they did last year,” says the former Raider. “Our first concentration is obviously fitness and that was the main focus of preseason, but we’ll keep working on our defense because in premierships defense wins the comps.”
Thompson will use every bit of experience he gained in his time with the Raiders and Melbourne Storm to get the best out of his new team.
“We’re trying to be more professional,” says Thompson. “I know it’s only a local comp, but I’m trying to bring some of the aspects from the Storm and the Raiders back to the club. I think the boys have adapted really well. We’ve been working hard on our fitness and it really shows. If we keep on top of that and keep working hard together I think we’re going to go really well.”
After losing a lot of players in the off-season, the Raider’s veteran will hope his senior players can step up and has praised his fullback expecting a big season from him.
“There is a really good fullback we’ve got – Ryan McQueen,” says Thompson. “He is a stand out player and he just has that knack of being around people and being around the support and you can’t coach that.”
Ryan McQueen has played all of his football at West Belconnen, joining the club as a junior, and has praised the coaching staff for restoring culture into the club.
“They’ve bought some new blokes to the club and got the culture back into the club as it wasn’t there a few years ago,” the fullback says.
McQueen believes that it’s the little things that will be the difference this season and a key to building on last year’s performance.
“Just playing the 80 minutes and not getting lost in the key games, we really need our senior players to stand up and get us going forward,” adds McQueen.
The fullback believes West Belconnen has recruited well after losing several players over the off-season and like most of his teammates is excited for the season to start.
“I think we’ve filled their spots pretty well,” he says. “We’re pretty strong all over the park, so looking forward to it.”
Thompson is also very excited for the season and believes with a lot of hard work his squad has what it takes to win the Canberra Raiders Cup.
“I think we have a squad of 20 players that can do it,” he says. “So if we are consistent, work hard, train hard and enjoy each others company off the field I think we are going to get there.”