(first seen HERE on the EFL website)
In season 2014, coach Paul Newlands wanted his Croydon men to go all the way to the Grand Final. They started off in fine style, with seven straight wins, each one of them bigger and better.
Having had time to build up a platform to go big was key to the approach last year for the club, says Newlands.
“We had a solid pre-season…it was a combination of that and the boys playing a season together. That was my first year, and being there for a second year made it a little easier for myself, with them. We all started pre-season together, and didn’t have numbers coming in late after Christmas…all heading in the same direction from day dot.”
That group of players almost lead them to a premiership against the vaunted North Ringwood last September, just one of the two teams who triumphed over them in the regular season. Newlands is resolute that sticking to structures and setups is the way to ensuring success throughout season 2015, but knows that if those structures collapse, so does the match.
“We proved in the grand final against North Ringwood, that if we stick to it, we can be there with the best. At half time, we went in with scores level…we come out, waiver, and go down by ten goals. For us, it’s about being consistent and hard at the ball; but we’ve got to make sure we stick to our structures and not get sucked in to silly things (on the field).”
Such a mentality will serve the Blues well, with a young list and returning experience to the side an essential boost to the 2015 campaign. The younger players now on the list have built up experience in their career that makes their impact bigger and more important, says Newlands.
“It makes it easier for the senior players to help them out around the ground. Part of the improvement was because the younger players had another 10 or 12 senior games under their belt, going from the TAC Cup to 30 or 40 senior games under their belt.”
The word mentor is apt when describing the role the senior players can take on, to help create a consistent culture at Croydon that Newlands strives for.
“Guys like (Brad) Weinert and Jimmy Grant have been sensational. We’ve been able to pick up Brad Keller, returning from Norwood; he’s older and had a great experience with what Norwood did last year.”
All this preparation is building towards the round one clash with the Doncaster Sharks at Croydon Park. Newlands says a revamped Doncaster outfit, which includes Heath Scotland, is no pushover this season.
“Round one will be a massive game. They played some good football (in 2014) and they were probably stiff to not go further; I’m sure they’ll be keen to start the year off in good colours, especially with the recruits they have picked up.”
With Division Two becoming a ten team competition, the double bye of season 2014 is now gone, making the playing field level, Newlands says.
“It makes it easier, as everyone’s playing on the same day. The split round still works well, and it’s great to see the division back to ten teams.”
Improvement, experience and hard work are the key mantras at Croydon, as they try to once again stand up above the rest of the competition in 2015.