‘Fittest’ footballer leads charge to ignite Premier League
IF highly motivated attacker Jacob Advaney continues to set the standard, Western Pride could quickly reaffirm a prominent position in this year's Football Queensand Premier League competition.
That's the hope of Pride head coach Andrew Catton who was impressed with the condition of Advaney on his return from the COVID-19 shutdown.
"I've known him since he was about 10 years old,'' said Catton, who has worked previously with Advaney at Ipswich Grammar School and in Hervey Bay.
"He came back fitter than I've ever seen him from the quarantine.''
That is a positive sign as the Pride players prepare for the next stage of this year's FQPL competition, set to resume on July 25.
Pride is scheduled to play Holland Park away that night, having returned to squad training last month.
"We gave them programs to follow and most of them followed them, which was good,'' the coach said.
Although players like Advaney did extra work during the lockdown, Catton conceded his team overall needed to bolster its match condition.
That's a high priority in coming weeks with Pride gearing up to play Lions and Brisbane Strikers in trials before kicking on in the Queensland Premier League.
"We've done a lot of fitness but they are not match fit,'' Catton said.
"So we've got a bit of a cycle in place now over the next month or three weeks to ensure that we get enough minutes in everyone's legs and be just as prepared as possible for the first game back.''
Catton is also coaching the IGS First XI preparing for the return of GPS competition when school resumes next week.
While term 3 school sport is looking to restore some normality, Catton said having the QPL stop after just four games was disruptive.
"It's frustrating, in my first year in the (Pride) job and all that,'' he said.
That was especially the case after Pride had secured its second win of the season with a much improved 5-2 victory over Rochedale.
"We had them in pretty good nick before they left,'' Catton said of his Premier League players.
"We had a good result against Rochedale and we were very fit.''
Pride were also keen to play Olympic a week later in the FFA Cup before the sudden shutdown.
Since returning to training, Pride's senior team, under-20 and under-18 players were restricted to working in groups.
"We couldn't have more than 20 people in a group, including staff, and they'd be certain spaces away from each other . . . and social distancing until we got on the field,'' he said.
"I'm involved in a whole heap (of COVID-19 planning) through school so I'm pretty well across it.
"The club has done a really job of managing it.''
With restrictions easing, Catton said they could now work more closely together with a restart date set. The top team had an internal match against IGS year 11s last Saturday morning.
A positive from the coronavirus break was that it eased a mounting injury toll at the club after just four matches.
Catton was confident his players would be fresh and ready to start again in better shape.
However, Pride have lost Japanese recruit Ryu Yonezawa (returned home) and Matt Haspels (to Redlands).