Captain Courageous set to bolster Eagles for finals charge
PROVING how quickly they can learn and adjust, the Ipswich Eagles expect another welcome boost in their finals quest.
Inspirational captain Rebecca Mccarthy has made an encouraging recovery as her team looks to lock up a top two spot for the QFAW Division 2 North playoffs.
The defending premiers travel to Alexandra Hills on Saturday knowing a final round victory and favourable result will secure them second spot and a chance to chase back-to-back titles.
Mccarthy's return from a nasty head knock and concussion is just what the Eagles need preparing for another finals charge.
"We're confident that she's going to be right to play,'' head coach Clint Bateman said.
"She said she's feeling good and I guess it's all about how she feels on the day and if she's been cleared.
"She was close last week but they just wanted to give her another week and it's understandable.
"She trained really well last night, as did all the girls so they're pretty keen to get stuck in.''
The Eagles face Alexandra Hills in third spot (22 points) behind Hinterland (24 on goal difference) and Noosa (24). Jindalee is in fourth on 22 points.
To secure second spot and to host a home preliminary final, the Eagles need to win on Saturday and hope Pine Rivers beat Noosa.
"The top four, five teams are pretty close and no one has gone through without a loss now,'' Bateman said.
But what has pleased Bateman preparing for Saturday's crucial match is how well his team has responded to 2020 challenges.
A week after their only loss (24-12) to Pine Rivers, the Eagles inflicted a decisive defeat on competition leaders and last year's grand final runners-up Hinterland.
"They've done really well,'' Bateman said.
"I told the girls to take them on and it's fun and just enjoy the moment and enjoy the challenge. They certainly rose and came away with a good win.''
The Eagles women also learnt quickly following that setback against Pine Rivers.
"Some things we worked out that we weren't doing,'' Bateman said.
"We came up with some different stuff at training . . . and it really stood out.''
Instead of following the same pattern of losing, the Eagles adopted a new mindset and tried to turn it around.
"I was pretty proud as a coach to see how they went about it - not just during the game but during training. It was all positive, just learn from that loss instead of dwelling on it.''
As the Eagles women strive to build a platform for the finals, the Ipswich men have plenty to reflect on heading into their last game of the disrupted 2020 QFA Division 2 North season.
Bateman, who is also Eagles club president, shared the disappointment of the men's team missing finals for the first time in many years.
However, he understood the reasons with work and family issues having an impact after the latest season restart.
Other teams also recruited some higher level players, making the competition less even.
"Pre-COVID, the numbers were really high at training,'' he said. "Then there was a time we weren't allowed to train so the numbers kind of dropped off.
"All in all, we still fielded two teams.
"I think it's just pretty tough to really assess the guys this year in terms of what's gone on.''
A positive was the ongoing development of some exciting Ipswich talent with some senior players unavailable.
"We'll reset and try again next year,'' Bateman said.
Before that though, it's time to guide the Eagles women into another finals campaign.
QFA Division 2 North: Ipswich Eagles v Alexandra Hills away at noon and 2pm.
QFAW Division 2 North: Ipswich Eagles v Alexandra Hills away at 4.30pm