After falling just five-points short of a premiership last year, there’s no shortage of motivation for the Brothers Premier Grade squad heading into the 2020 Allsports Physiotherapy Hospital Challenge Cup season.
Months away from their teammates in the COVID-19 break has only intensified the side’s desire to go one better in 2020, with enthusiasm levels at an all-time high at Crosby Park.
New head coach Anthony Mathison said the entire club is embracing its goal of premiership glory after reaching eight Grand Finals across the grades last season.
“Brothers had a fantastic season last year, with a significant number of teams in Grand Finals and quite a bit of success, but people want to go one better,” Mathison said.
“The club didn’t win all of those Grand Finals, and that’s the sort of aspiration, to do a bit better and win a couple more of those games on Grand Final day.
“Particularly for us as a first grade group, it’s a really motivated squad of players who got so close last year but just missed out.
“They really want to make sure they do get the job done this year and I’m sure that’s part of the reason why they did work so hard in the down time, to make sure they do give themselves the best opportunity to do that.”
Mathison and his coaching group were impressed with the squad’s commitment to training over the lockdown period and were able to implement personalised training regimes with the help of the club’s strength and conditioning team.
Playmakers Rohan Saifoloi and Paddy James proved standouts over the break, while a number of players returned fitter than they left.
“We were really surprised and really happy with the shape our guys came back in,” the head coach said.
“Some guys had home gyms set-ups, some guys don’t, so it was just about providing a variety of options to keep the guys active through that period.
“As it got a little bit closer to the return date, we started to introduce more of the Rugby content that we wanted to revisit just so we set ourselves up nicely once we got back on the field.
“Coupled with that, through our communication channels and social media groups we kept guys invested and connected to the group with a few little challenges to keep things in perspective and light-hearted as well.”
The squad has also been bolstered by a number of new recruits, with Queensland Country National Rugby Championship (NRC) backrower Dillon Wihongi joining the club and hooker Matt Mafi making his return to the Brethren after a stint in Japan.
With Harry Wilson and Fraser McReight now firmly entrenched in the St.George Queensland Reds line-up, the experienced Wihongi shapes as the perfect replacement for the young stars in the backrow.
“Dillon has been a great addition for us in strengthening our backrow stocks,” Mathison said
“He’s a high-quality player who’s proven himself to be a really dominant player at this level, and he’s got a pretty good rapport with a number of guys in our group through the NRC and some of his work commitments.
“He’s fitted in really well with the group and everyone knows what he’s able to bring to the on-field performances.”
After claiming the minor premiership in 2019, starting fast will again be key for the Brethren in a shortened season.
“There’s certainly no room to ease into the competition and wins in the early weeks are going to be really important because no one wants to be chasing must-win games the whole way through the second-half of the season,” Mathison said.
“It’s going to be enormous, we’re all in the grind of how many weeks of pre-season left and everyone wants to get out there and enjoy their footy.
“Everyone in and around the team, coaches, supporters, families, support staff, they just want to see guys out there playing footy and that’s why we are all involved, because we want to see guys prepare well and get enjoyment and success out of what they do on the weekends.”