Hospital Challenge Cup Season Preview – Wests

· Hospital Cup
by Reds Media Unit
The 2020 season didn’t go to plan for Wests, with the side falling short in a number of tight losses to end their campaign in the bottom half of the ladder.  
 
A renewed focus on both team camaraderie and defensive has hopes high at Sylvan Road, with head coach Carl Marshall ready to lead the side in his second year in the driver’s seat.  
 
Flanker Connor Anderson will skipper the Bulldogs, with his hard-working, determined style of play holding the team in good stead in 2021.  
 
Gungahlin Eagles and Brumbies Academy product Joel Atkins is a promising young scrumhalf, and he’ll partner new recruit Jono Kent in the halves, who has the move to the Kennel from Yoku Road over the off-season.  
 
The possibility of more game time for Queensland Rides flyer Ilaisa Droasese is another tantalising prospect for the Sylvan Road faithful, as is another season with the destructive Jeremiah Skelton in the pack and the return of Isaac Henry.  
 
With a positive club culture building, Marshall believes there’s plenty to be excited about for Wests fans in 2021.  

2020 REVIEW  

Wests competed for the full 80-minutes in 2020, although the end results failed to satisfy the Bulldogs.  
 
“Overall, we were pretty disappointed with the end result,” Marshall said.  
 
“I think we showed that we certainly have the ability on the field, but there were some areas in terms of the way we approach the game, both from an attitude perspective as well as tactically, that we need to fix up and sort out.  
 
“I’ve always said it, there’s a lot of talent there and we need to harness it in a better way. After being there for a year now, I’ve got a better understanding of the playing group and their strengths.” 

2021 FOCUS  

Marshall and his team have focused on fixing Wests’ leaky defence, and furthering the side’s culture and togetherness.  
 
The Bulldogs showed they have the ability to score points, but defending them proved to be the issue last season.  
 
“At the end of the day, every team wants to win the competition, but for us, it’s all about caring for each other so individually and collectively we can achieve what we want,” Marshall said. 
 
“The big thing for us is our goal line defence, how we defend our line and trying to really work hard for each other and put our bodies on the line to turn the ball over or prevent the opposition from scoring. 
 
“We have no problem scoring tries but definitely the defensive aspect is something that’s been a focus. We were leaking 30-odd points a game, it’s obviously unacceptable.” 

RECRUITS  

Joel Atkins – Gungahlin (Canberra)  
Latu Talakai – Eastwood (Shute Shield)  
Jono Kent – GPS  
Ethan Dobbins – Brothers  
Isaac Henry – Brumbies  

LOSSES 

- Fred Keil – University of Queensland  
- Will Dearden – Sydney University (Shute Shield)  
- Gavin Luka – retired  

PLAYER TO WATCH – JOHN-MARTIN STEWART  

Injuries limited John-Martin Stewart’s first year at Sylvan Road last season, and Marshall is tipping the Western Australia product to bounce back in a big way in 2021.  
 
“He was a guy we got out of Perth and sort of missed most of the season last year,” Marshall said. 
 
“He got injured early on and obviously because it was an abbreviated season, he missed most of the games.  
 
“He’s a backrower, just really abrasive around the breakdown and we’re just trying to develop his lineout work and set-piece skills.”  

OPPOSITION PLAYER TO WATCH – LIAM DILLON (BOND UNIVERSITY) 

Work commitments saw scrumhalf Liam Dillon make the move from the Kennel to the Canal last season, with Marshall seeing him as one of the competitions’ finest.  
 
“Obviously he’s a previous Wests player, we were desperate to keep him his personal situation meant that it was more conducive for him to play at Bond,” the Bulldogs coach said. 
 
“He’s someone you saw in the finals games, he’s quick around the ruck and can be a really effective probing halfback who can run and cause trouble all around which means you have to be aware of.  
 
“He’s got a good pass too and it was really good to see him play so well and put himself out there as the form half in the competition.”
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