High achievers: Ipswich stars, quiet achiever recognised
A COACH'S job is never done, especially when the welfare of talented young players is the primary goal.
As Palm Beach Currumbin and Keebra Park battle for latest Langer Cup honours on Wednesday, the Ipswich State High players have plenty to ponder having bowed out in last week's semi-final.
While the senior team matches are over for another year, Ipswich State High's Rugby League Academy is far from shutting down.
Reviewing Ipswich's 2020 Langer Cup season, head coach Josh Bretherton said a focus was finishing work setting up the year 12 students for the future.
The senior players will complete their normal classes, exam blocks and theoretical components attached to their subjects.
The players leaving will have opportunities to spend more time in the gym and do some training while transitioning to life after school rugby league.
For the younger footballers kicking on next season, Bretherton and his team will begin setting up for 2021.
That includes the year 10s and 11s doing gym work to build a foundation for next year.
"They're preparing their bodies for even just doing a pre-season when they get to 11 and 12 because that can be pretty brutal in itself,'' Bretherton said.
He said next term, the year 10s and 11s will get together to start some preliminary training.
"Mostly it's about off-season style stuff,'' he said. "How they can prepare their bodies and help them identify certain weaknesses and strengths . . . conditioning or if it's a skill-related thing.
"It's really more individualised at this time of the year.''
The 2020 performance review will include general trends, ISH's average starts and working on consistency.
Those lessons will be applied to a changing Langer Cup squad for next year.
As for highlights of this year's open side, Bretherton nominated some key moments.
The first was Ipswich State High's 30-12 away win over Marsden that kept their semi-final hopes alive following three defeats.
"We'd been under a fair bit of pressure leading up to that,'' Bretherton said.
"It was good to have that pressure release for the boys to relax a little bit.
"The other thing that comes with a highlight is Tommy Luhrman scoring a hat-trick in the second half.''
Another absorbing effort was Ipswich's 6-4 victory over Wavell in the following game.
Ipswich State High's defensive display in that match was one of the best seen in Langer Cup competition.
"It was memorable just because it was such a tough game of football,'' the coach said.
Bretherton said the most pleasing aspect as a group "was the ability to get their season back on track after a poor start. The resilience they showed. I thought that was really excellent.''
He said what Kulikefu Finefeuiaki and Josiah Pahulu did as young forwards in the competition was satisfying.
Queensland under-15 representative and Titans contracted teenager Pahulu received special praise.
"We knew he'd be good and he's a good footballer,'' Bretherton said. "But we thought he would just be a solid performer for us this year.
"He's one of the youngest players in the comp and to go out and be as physical as what he was and play as well as what he did consistently, he did a great job.''
Another big improver was second rower Waylon Fiaii.
"A lot of the time he's been here he's played as a six, played in the halves,'' Bretherton said, reflecting on his move to the forwards.
"In that position and the role he had to do and some of the defensive decisions he had to make and learn, I thought every week he just got better and better, which was very impressive.''
The team's quiet achiever was versatile hooker/lock Riley Morris.
"A lot of people don't notice what he's getting through but when you keep an eye out for him, we know he's going out and fixing a lot of problems for us,'' Bretherton said.
"Issues in the middle, he defends really well, he gets through a huge number of tackles in a game. Little bits of work off the ball, pushing up supporting people.
"All those little one percenters.
"A player in the middle of the field that coaches want, Riley just keeps doing it.''
While more planning work is being done this year, the Langer Cup team contenders will click up a gear as soon as school returns in 2021.
That involves pre-season and trial games leading up to the Easter holidays and the next Langer Cup series.
After a challenging year dealing with COVID, it is what Ipswich State High thrives on.
As for who he thinks will win the 2020 Langer Cup decider, Bretherton tipped PBC after their unbeaten run to the grand final.
"They are both good teams. It could be a very, very good game but if I had to pick one, it would probably be PBC,'' Bretherton said.
"I think their two halves are too classy.
"When the game is tight and in the balance, which the grand final is likely to be, I'd say they would probably take over.
"They are pretty good at what they do.''
Wednesday's Langer Cup final is being livestreamed at 5.15pm on the QT website, after the Walters Cup decider at 4pm.