Japan next mission for Ipswich's best football side
THE state's best football team from Ipswich will take their winning momentum to Japan after sharing in a history-making victory.
After celebrating Saturday night's National Premier Leagues Queensland grand final triumph, the Western Pride entourage will head overseas for more matches and valuable experience.
Organising such a trip weeks ago highlighted the ongoing professionalism that secured Pride its 2-1 victory over Moreton Bay United at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
"That's a good thing about creating a bit of a culture and creating a bit of an identity for the club,'' Pride head coach Graham Harvey said.
The Japan mission follows the success of last year's Ipswich visit by the Anthony Hudson-coached New Zealand national team.
"We want to be ground-breaking,'' Harvey said.
"We are very fortunate here that New Zealand decided to go for the game and I thank Anthony for being prepared to do that.
"I think the Japan thing will build on giving the boys more opportunity to handle big games. That opportunity to go away and experience football overseas for a week is really important.''
After being showered in icy water amid Saturday night's epic celebration, Harvey was proud of the developing Pride culture.
"That comes from the players themselves,'' he said.
Harvey's winning insights were echoed by the senior team's most capped player Joe Duckworth.
"We're mates first then teammates,'' the former Ipswich Grammar School student said.
"We just put in for each other.
"We work for each other.
"We hang out with each other off the field and we just do it for each other.''
Having in July passed Lincoln Rule's previous record (61) for most senior games, Duckworth said that club spirit made the grand final win more special.
Pride captain Jesse Rigby agreed.
"We are getting along on and off the field,'' the former QAS player said.
"That's a huge part for us. All the boys are clicking now.
"We know what's going on with each other so it's kind of we are working for each other and it's a great environment to be in down here. I'm loving it.''
Amid the jubilant scenes at the Ipswich venue, Harvey revealed how much the Ipswich club meant to him personally.
"I kind of feel a little bit like their dad, some of them,'' Harvey said.
"They ring you at all hours of the day and they ring you all hours of the night to have a chat. They send you the strangest messages.
"It's just nice to see them develop.''
After managing the team's emotions superbly throughout the season, Harvey was a happy coach.
"I am satisfied,'' he said.
"It's just great to see these young boys get some reward for their hard work.
"We've been working at this club for three years and I just hope now that people can see they have got experience. They can handle pressure. They can handle the big occasion, which they've done.
"They've only played a semi-final and a final in their careers and they've come out on top in both of them.''
As extra time appeared possible late in the grand final, Harvey watched anxiously. He coached the Whitsunday Miners side that lost the 2012 NPL grand final on penalties.
But as they had so often in recent months, the Pride players responded with Dylan Wenzel-Halls nailing a superb free kick with time running out.
"I've tried to instil with the boys over the last two years about just believing in yourself,'' Harvey said. "I'm really proud that they've managed to stick to it.
"To take a free kick like that under pressure is a great way to do it.''
Harvey said Pride's previous head coach and former Roar footballer Karl Dodd deserved a lot of credit for the club's victory.
"He had the vision and the foresight to go and speak to the boys just released out of the QAS and keep them all together and keep their development going,'' Harvey said of his predecessor.
"I jumped in two and a half years ago and just carried that on and just tried to add a little bit to it.''
When Dodd received an opportunity at A-League club Brisbane Roar, Harvey accepted his role with similar professionalism.
"When I first came to the club, they were all together but they were a little bit down,'' he recalled.
"Losing their coach midway through the season was something they probably never experienced before.
"That first year was just about getting through and keeping everyone together.
"In the next two seasons, we've really been able to build something even bigger and better than what Doddsy started, which is good.
"A few boys have been and gone but I really hope some of these boys now get an opportunity to go and play higher.''
"They put a lot of hard work into it.''