Adversity, gains, Ipswich thanks from tough state challenge
BASKETBALL: Before the state league season is complete, Chris Riches is already planning his 2020 campaign.
However, with plenty of unfinished business, the Ipswich Force men's head coach has little time to waste.
"For me the cycle continues with my focus moving to the next season of the QBL,'' Riches said after his team was unable to qualify for this year's playoff series.
"We have already started our recruitment push and will have a number of players returning.
"A secondary part of this time is the coaching of junior teams at Ipswich Basketball Association as part of my commitment to developing that pipeline to the QBL.''
Riches oversees Ipswich's under-21 men's side during the state league off-season.
Reflecting on his men's 12th place finish (five wins, 13 losses), Riches said adversity was a key feature this season with so many issues around injury and player availability.
"From this we got to see a number of positives,'' Riches said.
"Players that we are looking at being a key part of our future had more opportunity this season to step forward and have a crack.
"I feel we had a much improved starting point with regards to players development individually. Our home grown players have all taken steps forward and continue to grow into the level we want them to be at.''
Riches said some changes would be needed for next season within the development goals he focuses on.
American import Kyle Harvey is expected to return next season along with most of the Force starting five including Jesse Ghee, Mitch Poulain and captain Jason Ralph, who continues his recovery from back issues this season.
"But for me it is just as important to continue to have our Association's other representatives fulfilled their potential. So we will be continuing with this process,'' Riches said.
"Working at this level with a group of men focused on a singular role is a pretty special environment to be allowed into.
"The challenges and adversity that you face together I find only strengthens the bonds and keeps us all on our toes.''
Riches said the toughest part of coaching was finding all the time to complete what was needed.
"We had a bigger than ever support staff of managers and coaches and we still saw gaps in what we wanted to do to reach the next level,'' he said.
"The competition continues to get better each season and it is something that is not lost on the coaches who work within the program. Every day you have to be better than yesterday.''
Riches also enjoyed seeing individuals and coaches achieve their goals within the Ipswich program.
"We had a number of special individual performances this season that ultimately didn't lead to wins. Many of our players improved across the board in regards to their statistics and overall performances. I can see improvement in every player.''
Riches thanked everyone in the association, along with sponsors and fans for their support this season.
He said dedicated people like Brooke Norgrove, Terry Lindeberg, Curtis Healy and Johnathon Dore made the day-to-day challenges easier.
"This year we even had support coaches conducting individual sessions in Michael Wellings, Dan Robinson and David Cheetle,'' he said.
"Everyone plays a part.''
Asked what he learnt about himself as a coach, Riches answered: "Many things you take away from each game or session.
"It is one of the best teachers in life participating at the highest level that you can. I find for myself personally that you re in an ever grinding cycle of reviewing and evaluating what you are doing and what you need to do to reduce that gap.''
Riches said the Brisbane Capitals were favoured to win this year's QBL men's competition.
"It is not that there isn't teams that are capable of beating them, but to do so across three game sin the finals would be unlikely,'' Riches said.
"With players like Jason Cadee (current Boomer) and Will Magnay (Aus' Uni Team) they will be tough for any team."