5 weeks into the 2017 competition and each grade is starting to take shape. The most noticeable feature is how even the competition is this year. In First Grade everyone was picking the Hawks by how far, however after 5 weeks they have already dropped points to Maitland and are looking decidedly shaky in regards to their Premiership ‘specials’ tag. The Land Rover 2 Blues are currently unbeaten and are very happy to be flying under the radar with the pundits. Eventhough far from our best we have still managed wins over Carlton, Singleton, Nelson Bay, University and Lake Macquarie with the win over the Bay winning us back the coveted Hawthorne Cup, a trophy we are planning on keeping for many weeks to come. The most pleasing aspect for the coaching staff has been without doubt our commitment to defence with our line being crossed only 7 times in the five matches. While we are aware that tougher tests are to come, the fact that we are so solid in this aspect of this game is encouraging, especially considering the number of new faces we have, and are continuing to bring into the team. Luke Simmons has been fantastic this year, currently leading the Anderson Medal, here’s hoping he can continue this rich vein of form and take the medal at the end of the year. Our lower grades are also building with Seconds winning four from five, their
only loss a close 0-5 result to Carlton. The amount of training they are doing as a squad with the P1 team is showing dividends and by seasons end our depth will be well prepared for the play-offs. Our Thirds have won three from five and are learning to cope with the continual turnover of players. A pleasing aspect for our future is the number of new faces coming to the club and it is through the Thirds that these players become familiar with the Wanderers Way. Once the higher grades sort out their teams our Thirds are sure to have greater solidarity and consistency which will see them climb the table. Our 19’s are also three from five and sit third but anyone who has seen this team play will agree that with some further hard work the boys are more than capable of being there when the whips are cracking. The ‘buy in’ that the players are displaying to our systems is extremely pleasing and this group of young men are beginning to develop an understanding of what being a Wanderer is all about. Our Fifth Senior side are our Womens team and currently are sitting unbeaten on top of the table, including consecutive wins in the last few weeks against Carlton and University, last years grand finalists. Congratulations to Geoff and Anika and the girls who have been working very hard at training to achieve an obvious high level of play. Many of the Girls games are played after First Grade at our home fixtures so I would invite all of our supporters to hang around and watch the girls play. As of the end of Round Five we sit top of the table in First Grade, second in 2nds and third is Thirds and Colts. Most pleasing for us all is our lead in the Club Championship. Our Junior club continues to flourish with teams in all grades from U/7 through to U/17’s. Already this year the Junior arm of our club have run two very successful Friday Night Footy promotions with large crowds being treated to some high quality Junior football. What has made it even better is that Wanderers are undefeated on Friday nights. At this early stage of the year our older junior teams, the U15s, U 16s and U17s are all undefeated. Our Juniors can be seen in action most Saturdays playing at No 5 and inside at No 2. It is so important that we embrace and grow our Junior’s as they are, all importantly, the lifeblood of our club moving forward. Wanderers as one club continues to work hard in ensuring an appropriate development structure for all of our teams. The efforts of an untold number of volunteers often go unnoticed but never goes unappreciated. It disappoints us when we look around and see the game we all love slowly being strangled by lack of support and poor administration. While we all appreciate the difficulty of coordinating upwards of ten or so clubs into an equitable and fair competition, it still frustrates us when we see inconsistency and lack of foresight seeing a stagnant competition. In Premier Rugby we have the situation of one Club not even fielding the required number of teams, yet still they can continue unencumbered in the Premiership. The NHRU does not have to look too far to see how firm decision making leads to a flourishing competition. The Newcastle Rugby League were willing to allow Clubs to fall over to strengthen the competition they were conducting and the eight teams they run have never been stronger.
On top of this, believe it or not, the Newcastle Rugby League have over 40 different clubs contesting their second tier competition and have a flourishing Ladies competition running in conjunction with their main competition. Crowds are up and sponsorship for all teams have never been stronger. What are they doing so right that they are in this strong position? What can we learn from what they do? Currently our second division has only a few clubs involved. None of us have the answers however to find the answers we need to ask the questions, and do it quickly before we cant save it. Junior competitions are struggling and the Schools Rugby involvement is on the verge of collapse. At Wanderers we will not sit back and let this happen. Our involvement through our one club structures ensures that we are developing strong links between Junior and Senior arms of our club. Our premier Rugby experience invites a different junior team each home game to gain some exposure as to what life is like at the top. They gain entrance to the dressing room prior to kickoff, get a talk from the Premier 1 coach and attend the team warm-ups. They finish their day by helping out as ballboys. We have also formed a partnership with Merewether High, the Regions only academically selective school. This partnership has already seen benefits for both partners, with the Schools First XV experiencing great on field success while they have also contributed two full teams to our growing Netball Club. At Wanderers we are looking very much to what we want our club to look like in 2020, and making sure we are strong and successful then very much is determined by what we all do now.