It’s been a tough start - to say the least - to the season for Quirindi but coach Will Pearce can see some light at the end of the tunnel.
A string of heavy defeats has tested the Lions’ spirit and the resilience of a club struggling for players, but Pearce believes they are “on the right path”.
“At the moment we’ve got a young team still learning the trade of first grade. Everyone’s keen and still enthusiastic,” he said.
He has swapped the boots for the coaching pad after over a decade playing for the Lions, and is all too familiar with the battle they are facing. .
“Even years we’ve been going good we’ve been short of players,” he said.
Especially early in the season.
They’ve just been fortunate to have some very good players.
Moulding the side into a competitive one is going to take time but Pearce has seen enough glimpses to warrant cause for optimism.
As he remarked after Saturday’s 78-7 loss to Gunnedah they are improving, and have some promising young talent coming through.
“Ben Grant that was his first grade debut. He’s only 17,” Pearce said.
The Calrossy student didn’t look out of place. He scored the Lions lone try and showed some good touches in attack, and was judged players’ player.
Half-back Alex Roseby.is similarly still at school.
The first grade game was his third for the weekend after playing in the North West Junior Rugby Regional Youth Bridging competition on Friday night and then for the Farrer under-19s earlier on Saturday.
“We’ve still got a group of players that have been there the last couple of years that we’re trying to build a team around,” Pearce said.
“We’ve just got to keep plugging away at it.”
“We are getting better.”
He can’t fault the effort in trying circumstances.
“The effort is definitely there and has been for the whole season,” he said.
The Lions weren’t without their chances on Saturday, and at one stage in the first half peppered the Red Devils’ line for about five minutes but they couldn’t convert that pressure into points.
“It’s just those finishing touches,” Pearce said.
That slickness and timing that comes from time together just wasn’t there.
Pearce was particularly happy to see Grant and fellow winger Wiaan Oosthuizen wanting the ball and creating opportunities.
“Wiaan, that’s the most involved I’ve seen him,” he said, adding that “you’ve just got to give them time”.
That applies both in attack and defence, with the Red Devils exposing the Lions a few times outwide.
Grant was one of a handful of local players named in the Association of Independent Co-Educational Schools (AICES) open boys and under-16s sides ahead of next month’s NSW Schoolboys trials.
Grant and school-mate Jed Brennan were selected in the opens side and fellow Calrossy students Sam Brabook, Angus Davidson, Harry Snook and Mitchell Watts the under-16s team.
Flynn Bowter, Sam Buster (Calrossy) and Oscar King (Carinya) are meanwhile shadows for the opens and Calrossy’s Rowan Meyers and Luke Schillert the under-16s.
The two squads will attend a training camp at Narrabeen later this month, and then play ISA and CCC early in June before contesting the NSW trials on June 29 and 30.