By Sunday lunchtime every member of the Maitland Blacks first grade squad had gone through the painful process of watching a replay of their final-minute, penalty-goal loss to Merewether Carlton.
It was a commitment Blacks coaches Ryan McCormack and Mick Hinkling had hoped for and believe will take their team all the way to the grand final and ultimate success in 2018.
“I called around the boys about lunchtime, just to remind them to have a look at the replay before we got together for training,” McCormack said this week.
“To a man they had all watched the replay, analysed the team and their individual performances and identified areas they needed to improve on if we are going to put the loss behind us and win the title.”
The key improvements identified were ball retention, concentration for the full 80 minutes and patience in attack.
“Those are the type of moments when you realise that you’ve got a team that really wants success and are willing to do what is needed individually and as a team,” McCormack said.
The loss left a bitter taste in the back of the Blacks players’ throats, but they admitted their fault and realised the last-minute penalty was the right call but they should never have been in a position for it to cost them the match.
The Blacks will be boosted by the return of dynamic scrum half Max Stafford from suspension. His energy, enthusiasm and willingness to constantly challenge the opposition has been a key part of the Blacks success this team.
“It was great to be able to fill in for Max, but I’m glad to hand over the jersey to him,” McCormack said after partnering fly-half Pat Batey last week.
“His enthusiasm and energy lifts the team whenever he is on the park. He always has the opposition guessing, if he spots an opening he will take off and run straight into it.”
MCormack said training on Tuesday night was excellent and it was a real positive having second and third grade competing in the finals.
“There was a resolve among the boys that we’ve had our poor game for the finals and that now we go forward,” he said.
“We’ve cashed in the double chance we worked so hard for and are ready to learn from last week and go right through now.
“Having the three grades in really helps with training as we don’t have to call in players and there is a real excitement among all the players..
“It’s a Black out on Sunday with all our teams in action and we expect a big Maitland crowd to support all three grades.”.
Maitland v Nelson Bay 3.15pm; 2nd Maitland v Wanderers 1.40pm; 3rd Maitland v Wanderers 12.20pm