CULTURE CLUB: Springfield Panthers hope to again feature in finals this year, but building a strong club culture is a higher priority.
CULTURE CLUB: Springfield Panthers hope to again feature in finals this year, but building a strong club culture is a higher priority. File

Division 1 and 2 success for Panthers in Ipswich Rugby League

SPRINGFIELD'S decision to enter a second team in the Ipswich Rugby League Open divisions this year has proved a good one.

Not only is the undefeated Division 1 team leading its competition, the Division 2 team has won two of its three matches since joining the competition late.

"It's been pretty good," Panthers club president Rodney Stotschek said.

"We've got good numbers."

Those numbers are leading to competition for spots between the two teams, which is keeping players sharp.

Another factor is the influence of player-coach Corey Kirk.

"Corey is doing a professional job this year," Stotschek said.

"That is something that has let us down in previous years.

"We're concentrating on changing the culture in the club and it has showed with Corey, who is a lot more professional."

Stotschek, who also plays for the club's Division 2 team, is also focused on bringing back the enjoyment in playing.

For the president it is more important than claiming one or even two titles this year.

"It would be great to win two premierships," Stotschek said.

"But to me success isn't so much about winning trophies as all the boys enjoying their footy.

"In previous years I think there has been too much of a focus on winning.

"Last year I think a lot of the guys didn't enjoy their football by the end of the season and a lot of guys fell away.

"This year it is back to basics and we're enjoying our footy."

Which is not to say he is not hoping for some silverware come September.

But if it doesn't arrive there are other markers that will be a more accurate reflection of the club's progress.

"If we don't win a premiership out of it, it's not the be-all and end-all," Stotschek said.

"We're trying to build the club up progressively.

"I'm quietly confident we will."

It seems not everyone is happy with the Panther's strong presence in the Open grades.

They can hardly criticise Springfield for their strength.

"I hear a lot of the other clubs are complaining when we're flogging the pants off everyone," Stotschek said.

"We'd like to have our top squad in Reserve Grade but the rules don't allow it."

The Reserve grade competition is for the second team of the six A-grade clubs.

In previous years the IRL had made exceptions but that caused more problems than they solved.

So until Springfield is strong enough to field an A-grade club, or become part of a proposed Eastern Corridor club (by merging with Redbank Plains) they are likely to remain in the Open grades.

The Ipswich Cup weekend bye has come at a good time for Stotschek as he recovers from three broken ribs, suffered playing against Norths.

He hopes to be back in action for the Panthers next weekend.



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