New Ipswich Knights signing Riki Fulton will have to wait until early January to join his new teammates.
New Ipswich Knights signing Riki Fulton will have to wait until early January to join his new teammates. Claudia Baxter

Knights to be rested for launch

NEW Ipswich Knights head coach Ashley Hempstead has asked his Division 1 players to stay away from club training until January.

While other football clubs are preparing pre-season programs and scouting for new players, Hempstead is comfortable where his team is after finishing a creditable third this year.

"I've mainly told the boys just to have a rest," he said, planning his first training session at Bundamba on January 3.

"That will give us six weeks before our first fixture.

"Some clubs have started training and to my mind, that's too long.

"What I've done before has worked for me so that's why we're not starting until January."

Hempstead, who has enjoyed previous premiership success with clubs like Pine Hills, was confident of retaining most of this year's Knights side which came within a point of promotion.

"As far I know, we haven't lost anyone," he said.

"I think there's a fair bit of interest that we might get new ones.

"I'm just trying to keep what we've got because at the end of the day, it is an Ipswich team and you want Ipswich players."

Hempstead's major acquisition is securing skilful English-bred utility player Riki Fulton.

"He's been good for me. He's played under me for a few clubs," Hempstead said.

"He'll do well for the Knights.

"He'll score goals."

Hempstead said he's regularly talking to his co-coaches Mitch Cattermole and Noel Flynn during the off-season.

But he didn't want to peak too early with 14 teams in Division 1 and another long season ahead.

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

"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.

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

Meanwhile, Hempstead was indifferent about the Ipswich City Bulls being readmitted to Division 1 after earlier being demoted to Division 2.

"I don't worry about what other clubs do. I only worry about what I can control," he said.

However, Hempstead said 14 teams was too many in Division 1 and the Bulls were "third on the (regional) rank" in attracting good players.



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