From Western Pride to Brisbane Roar, Ipswich footballer Dylan Wenzel-Halls has inspired other players to keep improving.
From Western Pride to Brisbane Roar, Ipswich footballer Dylan Wenzel-Halls has inspired other players to keep improving. Rob Williams

Football's intriguing question after losing scoring supremo

IT'S the hot question regional football fans have posed after another turning point in the Ipswich club's fascinating history.

How will defending state league champions Western Pride fare after losing goal-scoring supremo Dylan Wenzel-Halls?

Saturday night's National Premier Leagues match against Brisbane City in Ipswich will shed some light on the major talking point.

However, for ever-supportive head coach Graham Harvey, it remains a clearcut answer.

Having faced a similar predicament last season before Pride won a historic grand final, he expects nothing less than a professional response.

The master coach dismissed any unsettling affect on the closeknit Ipswich side after Wenzel-Halls secured an A-League contract with Brisbane Roar.

"It's good for the boys to see there's that progression,'' Harvey said.

"They have been working hard as a group to try and get opportunities so it's nice when someone does.''

Preparing for a classic showdown with Brisbane City at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex, Harvey displayed his trademark calm and analytical approach.

He recalled how his Pride players responded favourably when losing goal-scoring ace Harry Sawyer at a similar stage last season.

After returning to Pride mid-season following an A-League stint with the Newcastle Jets, Sawyer scored an incredible 15 goals in seven games. That included four hat-tricks.

The massive impact propelled Pride into the top four and secured Sawyer a contract in the Philippines.

Other Pride players like Mitch Bird and Wenzel-Halls stepped up to score as the hard-working team went on to win their maiden NPL Queensland grand final.

 

Former Western Pride footballer Harry Sawyer made a huge impact last season.
Former Western Pride footballer Harry Sawyer made a huge impact last season. Chris Simpson

Fast forward to this month and Pride must now cover for Wenzel-Halls, who had scored a record 23 goals in 11 games before being snapped up by Brisbane Roar.

"I said to the boys that we've been in this situation before,'' Harvey said, noting his players were "a little bit older and a little bit more wiser'' to deal with it.

"Being in the situation where Harry moved on at a similar time last year doing similar things.

"Dylan has now done the same so nothing really changes for us as a group in terms of how we go about our business.

"It's one player out the door and we just have to make sure as a group that we keep pushing each other to make sure more people get that opportunity.''

Harvey said losing Wenzel-Halls gave players like Bird, Andy Pengelly, Alex Parsons and Salomon Lukonga increased incentive to fill the void.

Unlike last year when Pride were chasing the top sides, this season they are even better placed, leading the state competition.

The timing of Wenzel-Halls contract was also helpful to the Pride team.

With last weekend free from NPL matches, Harvey and the players went out to watch the A-League grand final together.

Harvey seized on the opportunity to talk to his players about Wenzel-Halls and Pride's previous FFA Cup loss to Saturday night opponents Brisbane City.

"It was nice to get away from the training field a little bit,'' Harvey said.

"It was a good opportunity for the boys to digest (what's happened). We had a good chat about the events, the FFA Cup and Dylan moving on and how it was handled.

"It was nice just to get a bit of quality time, a bit of a chat with them all. It was needed.''



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