Preparation Problems For Strikers Ahead Of Cougars Challenge

Jun 28, 2012 by

"I meant YOU" - David Large, not singing in the rain (photo: Keith Eigeland)

Brisbane Strikers coach David Large is hoping that a week of disrupted training does not prevent his players from taking advantage of their ‘next big opportunity’ in their quest for a second QSL title this weekend when they travel to Rockhampton for their second meeting this season with the Capricorn Cougars.

Once again this week in Brisbane, footballers might just as well have swapped their training boots for flippers and snorkels as the heavens have produced rain, rain and more rain. Large said today that his players had been restricted to one light training session at Meakin Park earlier this week as their preparations for the Cougars fixture have been all but washed out.

For some players, nursing sore bodies after a hard match against the FNQ Bulls last Saturday, missing one training session might have been more of a blessing than a curse. The loss of two sessions, however, has been less than helpful to all – as has been the lack of opportunity for Large to get them together to discuss the significance of this weekend’s encounter and to put game plans in place for it.

The Strikers have spent most of the season chasing the reigning champions, Sunshine Coast Fire, for the top position at the top of the league table. But, having achieved that three weeks ago, they have subsequently opened up a four-point lead with a game in hand. That came within minutes of being six points last weekend after the Strikers had beaten the Far North Queensland Bulls in Mareeba on Saturday. The following day, the Fire were drawing 1-1 with QAS Football at Meakin Park as the game went into stoppage time and were in immediate peril of dropping two points. However, a last gasp winner to Dylan Firth saved the day for the Fire and maintained the four-points status quo.

This weekend, however, the Fire have the bye – and this means that the Strikers have an opportunity to jump seven points clear if they can take maximum points at Jardine Park against the Cougars.

“I have not been able to speak to them as a group about that this week”, said Large today when asked about the significance of this opportunity. “But knowing the mentality of the boys, I expect they will be focussed and will realise the job ahead. Tonight we will do a bit in the gym, and have a video session and maybe to a bit of training on the number two field, but we will also have a talk and put a focus on the weekend and the importance of the game”.

The previous fixture between the Strikers and the Cougars, in Round 5, finished in a comfortable 4-1 win to the Strikers at Perry Park on a night when they became the first team to beat the Cougars this season. But while the scoreline was both deserved and convincing that night, the Strikers were surprised on occasions by the attacking potency of the Cougars, who posed problems despite missing several key players including centre back Jan Urban and attacking midfielders Chris Swain and Jordan Miller.

Much as the Bulls last week were a stronger and more dangerous outfit at home with key players restored to their team, so will the Cougars be stronger and more dangerous this time around on their own patch.

Large, however, said that based on what he had seen of the Cougars in Round 5 and had read or heard about them since, he would have his team ready to deal with one danger man in particular.

“Sander Waterland is the obvious one we need to be wary of”, said Large of the Cougars’ top scorer, who is running four goals behind the Strikers’ own Matt Thurtell in the QSL scorer’s chart this year. “He caused a fair bit of trouble for us at Perry Park and I need to get my thoughts together on how to deal with him. We will have some things in place to so that he is not going to cause us the sort of problems he did in the first fifteen minutes last time”.

Large said that, despite their hard game against the Bulls, all of his players from last weekend had reported fit and ready to go again. While he foreshadowed “one or two changes” to his starting eleven he was expecting to take the same fifteen players to Rockhampton that he took to Mareeba.

With Sunday’s game having a mid-afternoon kick-off – a scheduling that the Strikers rarely encounter outside of the southeast corner of the State – they will go into the game with a travel regime based on flying into and out of Rockhampton on the same day. This will give Large and his back-up staff some tricky practical problems to solve in terms of immediate pre-match preparation as they juggle the players’ dietary requirements with the need to ensure any necessary pre-match rub-downs are attended to, as well as a warm-up and pre-game tactical discussion.

It suffices to say that the six-hour period between getting off the plane at Rockhampton airport and leaving the Jardine Park pitch after playing the Cougars will require one hundred percent focus, organisation and almost military precision from the Strikers if all is to go well.

On overcoming such challenges can a QSL championship race potentially depend.

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