Western Pride defender and stand-in captain Cam Crestani returns to strengthen his team for Saturday's NPL Queensland match at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
Western Pride defender and stand-in captain Cam Crestani returns to strengthen his team for Saturday's NPL Queensland match at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex. Chris Simpson

How football champions plan to keep moving forward

HAVING farewelled Graham Harvey with a fitting team bonding session, the Western players can refocus for Saturday night's latest state league match.

However, with a solid coaching team still in place and Pride second on the National Premier Leagues Queensland table, the team's positive vibe remains.

As Harvey prepares to start his new role as Eastern FC head coach in Hong Kong, his former assistant Reggie Davani has been appointed head coach for the rest of the season.

Former Ipswich Grammar School student Davani will be helped by loyal and experienced Pride co-ordinator Dan Burnell, who has also played an active role in the Ipswich team's recent successes.

"It's very exciting,'' Burnell said, preparing for Saturday's earlier than usual 5.45pm match against the Magpies Crusaders of Mackay.

"It's a great opportunity for both of us as young coaches to continue our development and to continue the project and see the season out until the end.''

 

Western Pride assistant coach Reg Davani.
Western Pride's new interim head coach Reg Davani. David Lems

Burnell said it would be "business as usual'' for the defending state league champions, except for some minor tweaking after learning from Harvey's three-year mentorship at the club.

"For us, it's stability, it's continuity,'' the former West Moreton Anglican College student said.

"We've got some really great foundations laid before us and not too much changes.

"The core values remain the same. The goals remain the same. The squad remains the same.

"Reggie has been appointed the head coach now and a lot of our structures and principles will be exactly the same.''

Burnell said one of the new challenges at this time of the season was helping players with university exams.

"With such a young group where so many of them are students, we have to manage and juggle those situations,'' he said.

"But we have got a really good environment, a really good commitment from our group.

"The players give us enough notice and we just adjust.''

 

Western Pride football operations manager Dan Burnell.
Western Pride FC assistant coach football operations manager Dan Burnell.

Burnell was pleased to see Harvey given a team farewell function as part of a bonding session last weekend at Toowong Bowls Club.

"Graham has fitted in so well,'' Burnell said.

"It was such a wonderful period with Graham and we enjoyed a lot of success together as a group.

"Just like our debrief after Japan (post-session trip), we had reason to celebrate what once was and share some good times and some memories and send him off with a couple of drinks.

"The group is so tightknit off the park and those types of events really can sometimes be the glue which sticks it together.''

As for tonight's 11th placed opponents, Burnell said Pride were taking nothing for granted despite being much higher placed on the ladder. As they always do, the Pride coaching staff have monitored the Magpies on their trips south.

"We're fairly comfortable and confident we know where their strengths lie and how they set up against us,'' he said.

"We've worked fairly hard this week on how we believe our shape can counter Mackay and hopefully deliver three points.''

After the short break from matches last weekend, Pride will also be strengthened by the return of senior players Cam Crestani and Gabby Hawash from suspension.

"We've made a conscious decision between the staff and the group now that we're moving forward,'' Burnell said.

"We are at the halfway point of the season. There's lots to play for.''

Fans are invited to stay on after the game at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex to watch the World Cup match between the Socceroos and France.

The bar and canteen will remain open.

Game day

NPL: Saturday (5.45pm) - Western Pride v Magpies Crusaders (Mackay) at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.

NPL women: Saturday (5.30pm) - Western Pride v The Gap at Walton Bridge Reserve.