After a difficult 2018 season, Canowindra Pythons president Jack Beath hopes to take a more “social” tact in 2019, with an influx of youth and women players creating a buzz around the club.
Beath said the club has already signaled its change of direction by moving from the Graincorp South competition to the renamed Oilsplus North competition in 2019.
He added that the increased emphasis on performance in the previous competition, combined with the typical attrition experienced by non-finals teams at the end of a long rugby season, played a big part in the change of focus.
“The southern competition is going to be a lot more competitive [in 2019],” Beath said.
“Our grand plan for 2019 is to get interest back in our club and get players and supporters [on board],”Jack Beath
“[Last year, with] 17, 16 blokes, it got pretty tough towards the end. A lot of blokes lost interest, for want of a better word.”
With this in mind, the club feels by pushing a focus on enjoyment and family, it can re-engage those who just want to have fun with their rugby.
“Our grand plan for 2019 is to get interest back in our club and get players and supporters [on board],” Beath said.
“Push family and social aspects and not the win-at-all-costs [factors].”
Beath said that some of the biggest successes in 2018 came from events and teams where the role of community was emphasised, such as the trial day in March with Eastern Suburbs, Molong and Orange Emus,
He was also particularly encouraged by the introduction of women’s players in the second half of the season.
“The girls playing in the Friday Night November competition [was good],” Beath said.
“It was only round-robin, they won a few games, lost a few games, [but it got] the name out there.”
He added that should Canowindra be unable to field a men’s side in 2019, the club would quickly get behind the women’s side, such is the strength of the interest in the area.
“Even if we don’t form, we still want to back the ladies as much as we can, [but] I’d say we’d have a [men’s] team,” Beath said.
While he is still confident, part of the reason Beath sees fielding the men’s team as a big challenge is that a large group of players, who came back in 2018 after the club failed to put up a side in 2017, are no longer available.
“We had a few of the older blokes last year, and those blokes have hung the boots up,” Beath said, adding that the increased involvement of youth and the strength of the combined junior program with Cowra in 2018 gave him some optimism for the future.
“Getting more young blokes into the game who haven’t played that much Rugby [was a highlight],” Beath said.
Other items on the agenda for the Pythons in 2019 include a potential “Golden Oldies” day run in Millthorpe, to be run in partnership with Orange.
However, while the details of that arrangement are still to be ironed out, Beath was frank about the challenges of regional sport in small towns like Canowindra, but added he was up for the fight.
“Country sport... It’s a sad thing to see … it’s all starting to die,” Beath said, alluding to the difficulties in 2017 when Canowindra weren’t able to field a side, despite playing off for a Premiership as recently as 2015.
“I just want to see the game promoted to youth.”
To this end, he emphasised the importance of broadening his club’s base beyond the farmers and tradies of years gone by, tying this year’s aims to a bigger picture.
“The end game… is to advertise it as a sport for everyone, not just blokes coming off the farm, and for men and women of all shapes and sizes.”