Having had the bye this week, Croydon are not only playing hard, they’re playing to win.
The benchmark has undoubtedly been set by Croydon. Sitting 6-0 with the bye this weekend, every other side in Division Two is simply playing catch-up.
Most importantly, the Blues go in at the ball hard, and they win it nine times out of ten. In 2014, Croydon’s winning margins have been: Three, 14, 64, 25, 41, and 41 points after six games.
It is a testament to senior coach Paul Newlands, and his loud and hard attitude around the club. Against Doncaster in round six, the Blues found themselves on the receiving end of a determined effort at Schramms Reserve. The start of the match turned the crowd into a vocal mob, and really set the tone for the rest of the day.
Doncaster went in for second and third attempts at the stoppages, and for a while, neither side really took a stranglehold on the game. In the last term, Croydon booted away with six goals to three, and showed that even missing some important players they could continue their winning ways.
Newlands says the “buzz” around the club is contributing to such a big season.
“We work harder for longer. To the boys credit, they’re setting the goals, we’re not setting them. This (Doncaster) was our first block, so they’ve ticked all the boxes…their hard work is paying off.
“There’s a good feeling around the club, and hopefully it keeps driving up.”
Picking one out of the pack, it is very hard to go past Brendan Weinert, who has slotted 26 goals for the season. Somewhat moulded like Jonathan Brown from the Brisbane Lions, Weinert will insert himself into any contest, and will usually win the ball with strong marks and his big body forcing through a two-on-one.
“He (Brendan) has been around for a long time. He gets his body into the right position, hopefully we can deliver the ball to his advantage…we get the reward by him kicking a few goals.”
What is more important for Croydon is that the 2014 list has good depth, and not all the first choice players are in. Some from the Doncaster game include Ben Shelton, Nathan Hagg (who took an absolute screamer against Doncaster) and Lachie Todd, but Newlands says that the back six were instrumental against the Sharks.
“The last few weeks have been sensational…the contests enabled us to eventually push the ball forward (on Saturday). Across the board, there was numerous blokes that contributed.”
Todd was exceptional as another versatile target in the forward 50 and on the flanks for Croydon, ending up with four goals.
After Croydon’s round two game against East Burwood at home, Newlands also highlighted the great pressure the defensive group was able to put on the Rams. In that game, as was the case last week against Doncaster, the key motto was defence.
Newlands only took over the job at the beginning of 2013, but his message to the players at the time was clear; he wanted the team to play finals.
“I said that we had to make finals. Whatever happens at finals, happens. We got there, so we ticked that (box) last year. This year, we wanted to take the next step. I want to get to a grand final, how we get there is up to the boys.”
The sights have been set high, and it seems the players are doing exactly what they have been asked to do, and more. Setting the benchmark for the rest in the competition, and two games clear of nearest opponent North Ringwood, the next question is; just how far can Croydon go?