Tristan Fraser has led the line well for the Cougars in the Hyundai QSL and attracted the interest of A-League clubs.
Tristan Fraser has led the line well for the Cougars in the Hyundai QSL and attracted the interest of A-League clubs. File

Cougars battle attrition rate

WILL 2010 be any kinder for the Webbers Retravision Cougars?

It was never going to be easy “growing” a football club from nothing, creating a culture within the club and then coming out the other side with a group of experienced players ready to play at a competitive level.

The tough part for the Cougars is that so many of the better-performed players of the first two years will not be there this year.

In the first year goalkeeper Gerard Kelly and midfielder Clayton Rowlands were standouts. Neither is with the squad of 2010.

Most consistent players over the first two years have been Roy Bob, Craig Porter and Dylan Kussrow, but once again these players are no longer prepared to commit for another year.

Brendan James has been a genuine grafter who would wait his turn on the bench and then give everything for the cause when called upon. He too looks likely to miss the 2010 Hyundai QSL season through work commitments.

The question for Cougars coach Brad Smith and the board is how to replace these players.

The main problem is that while the Cougars have been carrying the football flag for the region, the local competition has been slowly deteriorating, making it very difficult for a player to easily make the transition to the higher levels of the game.

Despite all that there are still positives.

Tristan Fraser remains one of the players on the local scene who is worth the spectators’ admission fee.

Sometimes he can be frustrating as his skills suggest his goal tally should be at least double what it is; nevertheless, he has led the line well without that ever being his best position on the park.

While able to play his club football with Nerimbera in the centre of the park, it has always provided debate as to whether he should be deployed there or further up the park.

The answer is probably a little bit of both, as Fraser would be ideal sitting behind the frontrunner. The slight problem is that the Cougars don’t have a target man and if there is now one in the local game, he is being carefully hidden from the viewing public.

There are some players who have been named as the answer to all the Cougars’ problems.

Michael Hansen and Matthew Bettridge are certainly talented footballers, but were unwilling to fully commit to the Cougars, for one reason or another, and then both suffered serious injuries to end speculation.

Berserker’s Greg Hargreaves is one who has the credentials, while Clinton’s Nicholas Barker is a good, honest player who might fill a role. Again the problem is being able to commit to a team that requires players to devote the same number of hours as the semi-professionals in Brisbane, but whose rewards can only be measured in the pride of representing the area.

Possibly the biggest disappointment for the Cougars has been the development of the squad’s younger footballers.

The Cougars provide a pathway to the highest levels of the game, but some still look unwilling to make that journey.

There are exceptions.

Justin McMullen has the right attitude to do well and he should be encouraged by the progress made by Tommy Oar, who has made it to the A-League and now the national squad.

It is easy to say McMullen’s stature works against him, but the same could be said of the diminutive Oar. This coming season should be a telling one for McMullen as he has shown glimpses of his potential, but now needs to do it consistently.

Life is tough for young goalkeepers like Tim English as he has not only had to battle with his own lack of experience, but also play behind a defence that also lacked confidence. Considering his lack of experience English has done remarkably well.

Johnathon Sauer, if he cares to, has served his apprenticeship in the defence and should now gain his preferred position in the middle of the park. Should he do that, then he could prove be one of the stars of the 2010 Cougars.

The two Bens, Radstaak and McMaster, are learning their job in the higher level of the game and were occasionally a bit loose in marking up. They will improve with experience.

Cougars chief executive Bevan Dingley will have been hoping for a very special Christmas present.

Dingley has been working at getting players from Europe to come to Central Queensland – as Liam Williams and Tom Evans did last year. Although neither could be classed world-beaters, they did a job and both were well worth their place in the squad.

However, the question is still who will replace the likes of Bob, Porter and Kussrow as each one of them is an on-field leader. It will be interesting to see what Brad Smith and company come up with to fill the leadership roles.

Locally, Football Rockhampton has indicated it is aware that the local competition is not of the quality one might expect for its premier grade.

Too many teams are in the top division and that is one major concern, while the draw-off of players for the Cougars – and next season the youth team – makes some of the teams less competitive.

While Rockhampton has suffered, Clinton, which provides no players, has gone on to claim top spot in Central Queensland.

Best of luck to officials with sorting out this problem as it is hard to cut down on team or club numbers once they exist in competition, but sooner or later it will have to be done so a suitable quality of local football can be achieved.

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