Third time's the charm for Eagles
COACH Kym Mansell has promised to harness the disappointment of last season's grand final defeat to Carrara as the Ipswich Eagles return to pre-season this week with their sights firmly set on that elusive premiership.
The Eagles were the uncontested best team in the QFA Division 3 competition last year, finishing top of the table and booking a place in the decider with a five goal win over Carrara in the major semi-final.
However the Eagles came up short when it mattered most - their second grand final defeat in as many years - and Mansell will be sure to remind his men of that fact this time around.
"It's something we didn't do a lot of last year. We lost the grand final in 2017 but we didn't bang on about it,” Mansell said.
"This year, we'll play on it a little bit - especially with the guys who were there for it.
"What are we here for? Just really hammer it home, that these guys have a point to prove after being the best team all year, first team into the grand final . . . but at the end of the day it meant nothing.”
The Eagles returned to training on Tuesday and Mansell admitted he was "a bit shocked” with the numbers at Limestone Park.
"We had 45 on the first night,” he said.
"That's with a heap of players still away through work and holidays. I was a bit shocked actually.
"You're always a bit worried come the first night with how many people will turn up.
"When you have new guys coming in, when you're trying to recruit potential players the first thing they ask is, 'what are your numbers like?'. They don't want to come to training if there's five players there.”
Early indications are Mansell will need to do little in the way of reminding his senior players of the heartache that was last September's grand final upset.
Already, healthy competition has spawned as players realise the 60-odd players already on the Eagles' books do not fit into a senior team of 22.
"We want rivalry, but without being stupid,” Mansell said.
"For example, two of our senior players Jack Boston and Hayden Zimmer, they're best mates, they both play on the wing, but the rivalry is there to try and outdo one another in every game.
"We're looking for that in the Reserves too. To push the seniors, especially the fringe players. It makes everyone better.”
Mansell announced on Tuesday the Eagles' senior co-captains for 2019 would be reigning best and fairest winner Matt Sheridan and veteran Chris 'Fatty' Devlin.
The rest of the leadership group will be named in the coming weeks.
The coach said Sheridan and Devlin both commanded "a lot of respect” from their teammates, and were obvious choices to lead the club this season.
"They both lead from the front on the field, and are very knowledgeable as well,” he said.
"The young guys especially will learn a lot off those two by just watching the way they go about their business.
"When we name the rest of that group, it will be made up of younger players. We'll find a future captain within that younger bracket.”
Mansell added a concerted effort to bring in younger players over the past two years had resulted in a positive culture swing at the Eagles.
"Getting quality young players into the club has really shifted the culture from where it was,” he said.