Despite almost four months spent apart, the COVID-19 pandemic has failed to diminish the strong bonds building between the 2020 Souths Premier Grade squad.
After overseeing dual premierships in last year’s Colts 1 and Colts 2 competitions, new head coach Todd Dammers has brought a host of up-and-coming stars with him into the top grade for the season ahead, and their strong relationships are already paying dividends at Chipsy Wood Oval.
Much of the youthful squad have played together at school, in Colts or at junior representative level, and Dammers believes it’s those established relationships which are helping to build something special at the Nest.
“It’s a cliché, but they are a pretty tight-knit group away from Rugby and a lot of them have played footy together in different teams,” he said.
“The reality is, is that they’ve worked out that the connection with each other is just as important as the points on the board.
“There’s different groups that have been together for a long time as friends, and those different groups have naturally merged over the last 10 months or so, and a lot of it has been driven by themselves.”
Those connections continued to strengthen over the COVID-19 break, with a number of weekly Zoom sessions and group training, in accordance with restrictions, ensuring the squad stayed close and kept each other accountable.
“We’ve got a core group of guys who have locked right in across that whole period and that’s from probably about two-and-a-half teams, across the group we didn’t have a drop off from about 35 guys, which is pretty good for us,” Dammers said.
“It was as well-handled as we possibly could in terms of the balance between footy and what’s happening in the world around us at the moment.”
Combining with Souths’ flourishing combinations and connections is a strong sense of work ethic and commitment across the entire Premier Grade squad.
Almost 90% of the squad improved on their pre-corona virus 1.2-kilometre time trial results when training resumed, with veteran and premiership winning captain Matt Bennett leading the way.
“Matt could look at it and say it’s not for me, this is an inconvenience, but he has been phenomenal and for our young kids to be able to see a guy who’s done it all at Souths continue to set high personal standards is very impressive,” Dammers said.
Experienced heads like Bennett and Romanian international Luke Samoa shape as important factors for the Magpies in what will be one of the strongest Queensland Premier Rugby seasons in recent memory.
“The reality is, it’s going to be a fight every week, it’s going to be one hell of a competition this season,” Dammers said.
“It’ll probably be some of the best footy played in Brisbane since the 90s, the genuine strength across the clubs is going to be awesome and what an opportunity it is for everyone to play.
“For us to be successful, we’re going to have to be strong across both First Grade, Second Grade and Colts.
“With a sprint season, you might see a few more injuries, mixing with COVID and a lack of conditioning for some, so being a squad is going to be important.”
The return of Rugby is a return to some sense of normality for many in the Souths community, and the excitement to see what Dammers’ squad can do in 2020 and the years ahead is building.
“For a lot of these people, me included, come winter Souths is the centre of our universe, so it means a lot to be back,” the head coach said.
“I’m really confident in this squad, whether or not that’s 2020, that’s yet to be determined, but I’m confident we have the bones of a very, very good team for the future and I am really hopeful they put that out there this year.”