Rangers rising to new challenge after historic 2020 season
AFTER such a promising Barber Cup campaign last season, Ipswich Rangers coach Paul Faapo was hoping to retain a similar group of players.
However, like many teams returning after the COVID disruptions, Ipswich's top rugby side has undergone some major off-season changes.
"We've had an 80 per cent reshuffle of our backline and probably an 60-70 per cent reshuffle in the forward pack,'' Faapo said.
"We've got new faces this year which is making it a little bit challenging but we'll get there.
"That was probably one of the biggest things that we were going to have to cross because we knew that a lot of the players from last year were rugby league players (with that sport coming to a halt).''
Those rugby league players have returned to their former clubs this season.
The Rangers player loss came after the Ipswich club won last year's Queensland Suburban Rugby Union Sydney Cup award for having a premiership-winning team (Normanby Cup), runners-up effort (women) and a fourth-place finish (Barber Cup).
Last year's Clubman of the Year Faapo is keen to build another competitive combination this season, like he did in guiding the Rangers Barber Cup side to the 2020 finals.
Although Rangers lost 38-12 to Redlands Mudcrabs in their first game of the new season, Faapo said it was a better start than last year.
Given the disrupted 2021 pre-season, Faapo was happy to see his new-look team battle hard against Redlands.
"If you look back to our first game against Redlands last year, the score was a lot more,'' he said.
"So it's actually an improved score. It wasn't as close as what we wanted it to be but still an improvement on what we were this time last year.''
He said early momentum was difficult to achieve with the amount of rain and stops getting ready for a new competition. The squad has only come together in recent weeks.
"Our performance out there on the weekend was pretty much how it's been for our preparation this year,'' Faapo said.
Preparing for Rangers' next game against new side Riverside, Faapo was eager to re-establish a competitive Ipswich line-up over a series of upcoming round robin matches.
The Saturday afternoon match is at Bulimba.
This year's Barber Cup side is being captained by Craig Stewart, the team's open side flanker.
The first round was delayed a week due to the earlier COVID lockdown and wet weather issues.
Rangers are also fielding a team in this year's Normanby Cup competition after enjoying grand final glory in last year's Friday night series.
Successful coaches Chad Dewaard and Stewart Banks return with Cal Waldrum as captain.
Rangers received first points of the new season after opponents Logan forfeited last Friday night.
The Rangers Normanby Cup team completed its remarkable 2020 unbeaten campaign with a 32-3 grand final win over Logan.
Rangers were unable to enter a women's side this season due to lack of numbers.
The Ipswich women made last year's grand final in the Queensland Suburban Rugby Union competition.
The senior Rangers teams last season were waving the flag for the club in playoff series just days after three junior sides won their grand finals.
The wonderful trifecta of junior success came in the Division 1 Brisbane Junior Rugby Union competition.
New players are always welcome to join the Rangers ranks.