Comets show their will to succeed
RUGBY LEAGUE: The Central Queensland Comets have been around for quite a few years during which time they have been subjected to ridicule for a lack of success.
That was not the case for the 2009 team as the club, guided by coach Wayne Barnett and chief executive Scott Minto, has reinvented itself as a professionally run organisation with a winning culture.
While it is hard to judge any club on the efforts of a single season, the Comets appear to have finally embraced the concept of the Queensland Cup and given their long-suffering supporters the chance to look forward to the 2010 season with a certain amount of confidence.
For those of us who were on other duties for much of the season it was a strange time.
Having watched only two of the team’s games, that should have provided some way of judging where the team was at.
However, the two games were both against the champion Sunshine Coast team at Browne Park and the matches could not have been more different.
When the two sides played out their Browne Park match during the regular season it left a lot of people wondering what had happened to the players who had taken the Comets into the top four.
Sure the names were same in the program, but the commitment of the players to the cause was a tiny fraction of what is required by a top Queensland Cup team.
Barnett had given his players the game plan with the stopping of the very effective halfback Trent Hodkinson a major priority.
To those in the crowd it appeared the coach had wasted his breath as Hodkinson ran the match from start to finish with the home side standing back to enjoy the exhibition.
Sunshine Coast ran out a 46-0 winner and Comets fans could have been forgiven for thinking, despite having already qualified for finals football, the season had ended.
Less than a month elapsed and the two sides met once more at Browne Park, the Comets having the home tie after finishing third, while the Coast had ended its first season of the Queensland Cup in fourth place.
The difference could not have more marked.
If the Sea Eagles had thought it would be an easy passage through to the next stage they were wrong.
The Comets were in excellent form, blocking out the threat of Hodkinson and winning a bruising encounter by 21-14.
It was a stirring effort and there is little doubt that the players react to the atmosphere generated by their supporters.
Would the Comets have gone all the way had they had a home tie for the semi-final with Northern Pride is open to conjecture.
However, instead of the semi-final match being a game of passion both on and off the field for the players to carry in their memories as a highlight of the 2009 season, it became an anti-climax as the CQ side met the Cairns team on neutral territory.
After playing in front of 4000 excited supporters for the Coast game, it had to be disheartening to battle out such an important match in front of a handful of spectators who had little interest in the outcome.
The good news for the Comets is they retain the nucleus of the very good squad of 2009 into the coming campaign.
Wayne Barnett maintained there was nothing wrong with the quality of the players at his disposal, it was depth he would address and this the club is in the process of rectifying.
A good squad, professional administration and new culture around the club suggests 2010 will be at least as successful.
The Comets have always been one of the better-supported teams in the Queensland Cup and gates took off during the year with fans wanting to be a part of the team’s success, enjoy the quality of football being played and to view players of the calibre of Matt Sing, who made a solid return to the game.
Credit has to go to the Comets’ recruitment too.
Often players, in all sports, arrive with a big fanfare only to have little impact and provide no more than a locally recruited player.
That was not the case with players like Ian Webster bringing their own professionalism to the club, where it had a positive effect on local players.
With everything the Comets produced the only disappointment for league was the local competition with the CQ Challenge final, which resulted in two Gladstone sides facing each other in the final game.
The Rockhampton competition needs four strong teams so sides face powerful opposition week-in and week-out.
With the talent coming through junior ranks it seems unthinkable that Rockhampton can’t regularly put at least four good teams on the park.
Brothers won the local competition beating CQU Chargers 42-12 in the final with its captain Tommy Simpson capping off a fine season when awarded the Ollie Howden Medal at the end of the year.
The John Jenkins-coached team was the benchmark in Rockhampton all year and it is interesting to see how the other teams have reacted to the challenge Brothers have set down for 2010.
Norths have returned to one of their established coaches, Daryl Horstman, to lead them back to the top, while Fitzroy Gracemere has opted for a newcomer to Rockhampton, Dane Jones, to raise the club’s playing fortunes.
Yeppoon, however, created the biggest talking point when they grabbed the much-travelled and well-performed John Harbin before other clubs, and codes, had recognised he was even back in the area.