Players like Ipswich Knights defender Andy Drager know how to prepare themselves well for games.
Players like Ipswich Knights defender Andy Drager know how to prepare themselves well for games. Rob Williams

Stage set as big three take shape

PRE-SEASON strategies are crucial in every sport, often determining whether a team peaks at the right time, suffers serious injuries or falls in a heap.

Chatting to regional football coaches in recent days has highlighted the different thoughts on when to start training for winter competitions.

Ipswich City's recently appointed co-coaches Nev O'Sullivan and Danny Wilson are adopting a more professional approach after the club was demoted to Division 2 before earning a Division 1 reprieve.

Their planning seems to be on the right track, with an eight-week gym program being organised as training starts this month.

However, new Knights head coach Ashley Hempstead is more cautious as he prepares to guide the Ipswich team with his co-coaches Noel Flynn and Mitch Cattermole.

The Knights co-coaches have organised their first training session on January 3.

"I just said to the boys, 'make sure you rest your bodies up', because a lot of the players are playing now anywhere between 35 to 40 games and that's a lot for amateur players," Hempstead said.

Western Spirit's new coach Stewart Drinkeld is still finalising his pre-season plans, which should be fascinating, given his vast experience in football.

However, what will be most intriguing in coming weeks is which players align with which of the three major regional clubs.

O'Sullivan and Wilson are proud Ipswich campaigners, who have enjoyed success on the back of the city's reputation for loyalty and toughness.

Drinkeld has similarly had strong ties to the region as a former Knights captain and through his previous teaching job at Ipswich Grammar School.

Hempstead, Flynn and Cattermole are essentially outsiders working with Ipswich's premier football side.

How that three-pronged coaching-player relationship unfolds will be enjoyable to watch.

"I work on the theory I'm not really worried about pre-season results, as long as we get a good preparation and we're ready for the first game," Hempstead said.

"I like to build into the season and finish strong.

"But it's hard to get it right now because a lot of the players are not used to the 26 fixtures.

"Going back a few years, you had a strong Reserve grade side but those days are gone (with so many clubs)."

Hempstead is also saying the right things to build Ipswich confidence.

"A lot of clubs make the mistake - ie, someone coaching say Albany Creek - bringing in players from another club," Hempstead said.

"To me, I'm not sure what that proves.

"I'd like to see a lot of Ipswich boys in the side, because it's an Ipswich team. That's what I'm trying to do."

With just weeks until the new year, the excitement is already building about where players sign up, how they are managed and how Ipswich's fine footballing traditions are developed.



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