I’m very happy with how the team has evolved and developed over the season, and how well we finished leading into the Qualifiers. It’s certainly been a real journey for the team of 2017. A rough start to the season which became more polished mid-season, and a comprehensive end to the Championship with, I believe, more left in the tank for the final push.
It was certainly a disjointed start, and the team struggled to build any real consistency or continuity early on, until the Easter period came around. This was mainly down to the fact we had 14 new faces added to the squad that had to adapt to a new team, new systems, new structure and the London way. Add to that a torrid injury list to a large number of players that affected pre-season and the early rounds, it was challenging. But, we stuck to our principles and beliefs, faced some adversity and came through it together which makes me proud to coach this group.
The Easter period was the turning point for the team, and was pivotal to our season. I was so proud of those players who earned those two results – we then went on to win 13 out of our last 14 games. I feel we are in a really good place now going in to the qualifiers. Our attack has proven quite potent and our defence has been solid across the board. There is a real hunger and determination within the squad right now and a belief that something special could happen. We are a very strong team.
It was a tough decision but that’s what I am paid to do. I have to make those tough decisions, and do what I believe is best for the team – not what’s best for any specific individual. Some tough choices had to be made at that time, but they proved to be the right ones, and since then all the players – including those that missed out – have really stepped up their performances, and turned their own seasons and focus around for the greater good of the team.
Ultimately I have to prepare the players for the opposition ahead, and select a team from that group who I believe is best suited at the time to execute the plan and get the job done. Everyone wants to play, so there will always be a number of disappointed players come the weekend. It’s my job to ensure that they understand why they are not playing, and what they need to do to improve or to help themselves and the team. Everything is about the team. Also. I to have to be accountable to the squad and the players and I have to hold my hand up if I have made the wrong decision or got the plan wrong.
They were all left out for a reason, but since they have returned to the team they have all made positive contributions, and performed with the ability I knew they had, and to the levels we expect here at London.
Kieran Dixon has been outstanding since returning to the team, and has started to show the form that captured the attention of so many a few years ago. Michael Channing I believe has been a good influence here as they have a great chemistry together on and off the field. Junior Roqica had a slow start to the season, but has got better throughout the year and shown his worth since, as he has adapted and found his feet. I’m really excited to see what he will bring in the Super 8s. Jarrod Sammut was doing a lot of good stuff early on but couldn’t get the consistency in his game. Maybe he was trying a bit too hard and overthinking things, but since then he has settled into how we play and grasped that team mentality, and has been great for us. He has added so much value in terms of being a threat with the ball himself, as well as creating opportunities for his teammates. He has defended really well, kicked well and been a big part of what we have done in the back end of this regular season. He can be very proud of his efforts and now gets the chance to prove himself again at the next level in the Qualifiers.
As far as the team is concerned, I’m very proud of each and every player in this squad, as they have all contributed in parts to the season so far. As a team, they have grown over the season, overcoming challenges and adversity both individually and collectively. They have learnt a lot about each other. They have built trust, and developed a great chemistry and understanding. Once the team had found itself and everyone had totally bought in, the team took shape, started to gel and the results changed dramatically. Now the team can go into the Super 8s, not only in form, but with momentum, confidence and belief. I’m actually excited now to see the players step it up, and perform as a team against that next level of competition.
There have been some outstanding performers over this season, and it is hard to highlight individuals, because I truly believe everyone is playing well and executing their role well, when selected. The team is truly delivering.
In saying that, I think Will Barthau has been phenomenal for the team from start to finish. He has really developed in these past two years at the club, both as a player and a leader. I think he has been one of our standout players and is Super League quality. He has been so pivotal to a lot of the good work done.
Jay Pitts and Rhys Williams have both been stalwarts, ever present and consistent in performance levels, which we can’t take for granted. It’s a real privilege to have this quality in our team.
I’m extremely proud of some of the young kids who have come through as well this year and kicked on. Alex Walker in particular, has played a lot more games than I think anyone expected but has really taken his opportunity and gone from strength to strength. Lewis Bienek has burst on to the scene and we are managing him well to get the best out of him moving forward. Matt Davis has made strides after dealing with injury, and shown good qualities and is adapting his game for the better. Sadiq Adebiyi and Kam Pearce-Paul have had a taste in their first season out of Academy, and have not let the team down. They continue their development with Oldham until the end of the season.
I think we are ready, yes we’re ready. The great thing about going away to Catalans first up, is that there is no pressure on London. The reality is that Catalans are the Super League team at home in France, and I’m sure the bookies will have them as firm favourites, which suits us.
We know Catalans’ form has been a little bit indifferent this season with only four wins at home, and they have not enjoyed the successes of previous years – there will be reasons for that. They’ve had a bit of change recently with a new coach coming in, who is still trying to understand his squad and what he wants to do with.
In saying that, we are not stupid and we know that Catalans have a strong squad, and there’s some fantastic talent in that team – some quality individuals who can really hurt you if you are not on your game. Our boys have been working extremely hard in these two weeks leading up to it, and we have raised the intensity in our training sessions and done things a bit differently to get ourselves prepared for this next competition. I do feel the players are ready to give a good account of themselves, and if they play to their true ability – who knows we could nick something there this weekend. We’re not sitting down saying ‘oh, we can target this game to win or that game to win’, no, we are going out to win every game, and we will take it week by week with the mentality that we can win every time we take the field.
Just one word…. promotion. It’s simple – that’s the goal. I don’t care what route it is, whether it’s straight or up via the Million Pound Game, but we are looking to go back, within the next seven weeks, to Super League.