The Ipswich Knights under-23 side with coach Bob Maclot taking a break in their trial against the Ipswich City Bulls. Picture: Gary Reid
The Ipswich Knights under-23 side with coach Bob Maclot taking a break in their trial against the Ipswich City Bulls. Picture: Gary Reid

Knights enhance reputation as club developing talent

HAVING overseen a series of impressive playoff efforts in recent seasons, Bob Maclot knows 2021 could be his most challenging in years.

However, the Ipswich Knights under-23 coach hopes the newly-introduced Football Queensland format helps his youth footballers progress rather than struggle.

"I'm not a big fan of it (the under-23 structure) to be honest,'' Maclot said.

"I think it's a big step to go from under-18s to under-23s.

"It all depends how clubs use it.

"If clubs are using it for giving young kids development then it's good. But for a lot of clubs, all they care about is winning so they'll just put their older boys in and just worry about results for that year.

"Whereas we are trying to build for the future.''

The Knights under-23s secured a comfortable 5-0 victory over the Ipswich City Bulls Reserve Grade side in Saturday afternoon's trial at Sutton Park.

However Maclot is keen for some extra players to strengthen his enthusiastic squad.

"We've had a couple of players leave in the last couple of weeks. They've just got offers from first-team clubs,'' he said.

"That's what they are there for. If they are moving on and playing senior football, it's good for the club.

"It's good for our reputation to better the players.''

Action from the trial match between the Ipswich Knights under-23s and Ipswich City Bulls Reserves at Sutton Park. Picture: Gary Reid
Action from the trial match between the Ipswich Knights under-23s and Ipswich City Bulls Reserves at Sutton Park. Picture: Gary Reid

In past seasons, Maclot has played a key role in helping Knights under-20 teams advance in Football Queensland Premier League (FQPL) playoff series. That included a 2019 extra-time grand final loss to Sunshine Coast after his team won seven games in a row.

In his seventh season with the Bundamba based club, Maclot wants to continue bringing on the next generation of football talent.

"It's going to be hard work this year,'' he said.

"It's pretty much rebuilding.

"Probably only four or five of the boys have come up from 18s so we virtually lost the whole under 20 squad from last year.

"A lot of them have moved on. Probably three or four have stepped up to the first team and the rest have gone to various clubs around.

"We've developed some good players that can go on and play first-team football at a very good level.''

An Ipswich Knights under-23 footballer advances the ball in the trial match against the Ipswich City Bulls Reserve Grade side at Sutton Park. Gary Reid
An Ipswich Knights under-23 footballer advances the ball in the trial match against the Ipswich City Bulls Reserve Grade side at Sutton Park. Gary Reid

Under this season's FQPL restructure, under-23 teams are allowed three older players plus a goalkeeper. The Knights are sticking with youth.

"We let two boys go this week that were over 23,'' Maclot said. "Good players but we'd just rather give our 17-year-old an opportunity.

"The average age of the team is 19.''

All but one player in the Knights senior team could line up in the under-23 side. That highlights the Knights ongoing development progress.

Ipswich Knights under-23 player Wil Kitching works to maintain possession in the trial against the Ipswich City Bulls Reserve Grade side at Sutton Park. Picture: Gary Reid
Ipswich Knights under-23 player Wil Kitching works to maintain possession in the trial against the Ipswich City Bulls Reserve Grade side at Sutton Park. Picture: Gary Reid

Maclot previously worked at Brisbane Force with Knights head coach Andy Ogden. The pair have formed a powerful combination respected by the players.

"I'm enjoying it,'' Maclot said, having spent four years with the Knights Reserves before focusing on the club's youth development.

"It's a good club to work with.''

Action from the trial between the Ipswich City Bulls Reserve Grade side and Ipswich Knights under 23 team at Sutton Park. Picture: Gary Reid
Action from the trial between the Ipswich City Bulls Reserve Grade side and Ipswich Knights under 23 team at Sutton Park. Picture: Gary Reid

Maclot said the main benefits of the latest trial were "just a bit of fitness and people getting to know each other a bit better.''

After the Knights U23s suffered consecutive losses against North Star, Eastern Suburbs and Mitchelton, Maclot was pleased with a confidence-boosting effort against the Bulls Reserve Grade side.

"They (North Star, Easts and Mitchelton) have got very big squads, older squads while we've sort of been giving players a run and seeing what they can do,'' Maclot said.

"Pre-season is all about fitness and learning.

"This year, we've got to work and earn our money and hopefully we can turn the results around. Better results in the second round than we have in the first round and move forward.''

The Knights under-23 team open their 2021 campaign against Mitchelton at Bundamba on March 14.

Centre back Jordan Simpson has been named captain this season.

The Ipswich Knights under-23 football team take a break with coach Bob Maclot and manager Darryl Kitching in their trial against the Ipswich City Bulls. Picture: David Lems
The Ipswich Knights under-23 football team take a break with coach Bob Maclot and manager Darryl Kitching in their trial against the Ipswich City Bulls. Picture: David Lems

The Knights under-23 coach appreciates having former Western Pride jack of all trades Darryl Kitching as his manager.

"Darryl is great to have around the club,'' Maclot said.

"A lot of knowledge of the game. He's been around, knows a lot of people.''

Paul Holden is coaching the Knights under 18s this season.

Adam Maunder is Knights technical director working with club juniors.

Ogden oversees the senior program.

"We've got a good bunch of people and just working with Oggy and learning and learning and learning it's good,'' Maclot said.

"It's a good culture around the club.''