Western Pride's leading goal scorer Joe Duckworth.
Western Pride's leading goal scorer Joe Duckworth. Chris Simpson

Why record-breaker Joe is so keen to help Ipswich team

AS Western Pride's leading overall goal scorer with the most state league matches to his credit, Joe Duckworth has every right to feel satisfied.

However, the former Ipswich Grammar School student is anything but content with the 2018 National Premier League season.

The highly regarded footballer played a key role in helping Pride reach the NPL semi-final for the second year in a row. But after sharing in Pride's historic grand final victory a year earlier, the ever-professional attacker wanted more than bowing out in the semi-final.

"I'm proud of our effort but at the end of the day we didn't win anything so there's always that room for improvement,'' Duckworth said.

"There was really a missed opportunity there. The way we started, we probably should have gone on and done something.

"It ended pretty disappointingly to be honest, losing a semi-final from where we were. It was hard.''

That's why Duckworth has re-signed for his fifth season with Western Pride.

Apart from his fierce determination to win, Duckworth wants to continue helping Pride develop and succeed.

"It's a club that I've spent a lot of time at so there's a lot of love there for the place,'' Duckworth, 21, said.

"The players and the staff and all that.

"It's a good club and I'm happy to re-sign.''

After a break to focus on his teaching studies, Duckworth will head into the 2019 season having played 94 NPL games and scored a team high 42 goals.

The club's most capped senior player was also chosen in the honorary 2018 NPL Team of the Year, recognising his work ethic and class.

However, while appreciating the individual accolades, Duckworth was more focused on Pride's progress.

"In terms of the team, we started really well (in 2018) and had a bit of a turbulent middle and end with the amount of players and coaches that we kept on losing,'' he said.

"But we showed a lot of character there to keep the ship afloat and make it through to the finals.''

Duckworth said the "unlucky'' semi-final defeat (2-1 to Olympic after Pride led at halftime) has fired up the team for next season.

"The way we lost that semi-final, given the nature of the game, is leaving a bit of a desire in a lot of the boys,'' he said.

"Hopefully we can bring that into next year.

"We had a taste of winning a couple of years ago and I'm pretty sure most of the boys want to get back to that feeling.

"We get a chance to right the wrongs next year.''

With Pride since 2015, Duckworth was heartened to see other senior players like Jesse Rigby and Cam Crestani eager to re-sign as well.

"Everyone except one player has re-signed so that's really nice,'' Duckworth said.

"We'll keep that core group together and we'll need to bring in some players and some of the young boys who had a good season with 20s will get their go.''

Duckworth said a terrific foundation had been laid by the coaching staff, including under-20 player/coach Jordan Manning. Manning's dual role helped Pride's U20 and under- 18 teams reach grand finals.

"He's 20 years himself and the work he's done (in both programs) is just amazing,'' Duckworth said.

"He's won a grand final (with the U18s). He's won the league, which with those squads he really had no right to, so really it's amazing for the club.

"And it sets all those players in good stead.

"They are all able and willing to make the jump when they need to.''

While some Pride players are already back in pre-season mode, Duckworth is keen to complete his last month of teaching studies while having a short rest from football.

"I'm just enjoying a break. It was a pretty long year,'' he said.

The Western Pride players will join with officials and coaches on Saturday night to celebrate their annual awards function.

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