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Woolford reflects on ISP season

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Reserve Grade Newcastle Knights coach Simon Woolford admits it’s been a mixed bag this season.

“We were up and down at the start, we lost three, we won three, we lost three, we won four,” he explained.

“We were a bit all over the shop but we found some real consistency at the back half of the year and that’s pleasing.”

Like any reserve grade side, the team dynamic constantly changed throughout the season to accommodate NRL selections.

A number of players including Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Mickey Paea, Brendan Elliot and Josh King all had their time playing both grades.

Injuries also gave some players the opportunity to have their time to shine at the top, including Jack Cogger and Tyrone Amey, who came in at the back end of the season.

“My role is to have players ready for NRL,” said Woolford.

“Losing players at the last minute or getting a player who drops back, that’s just a part of the role at this level.

“Of course, we want to win games along the way, but that preparation is the same for every club so we’ve just got to deal with that.”

After the ISP side finished last in 2016, Woolford managed to see this year’s Reserve Grade team all the way to semi-finals football before bowing out to the New Zealand Warriors.

He admits they have come a long way in just one season.

“Last year the team didn’t have many wins and we started to think we might be in for another long tough year in 2017, but we kept working hard and the boys improved.

“It is all well and good to be disappointed about what we didn’t achieve or not going any further, but there’s got to be some satisfaction with being able to get ten wins and reach the semi-finals.

“The last two and a half, three months of the season were pretty good and although we didn’t quite play well enough last weekend, we still had a pretty good finish to the season.”

Although it was hard to single any of his players out, Woolford aid there were some that showed impressive development throughout the year.

“Look at guys like Braden Robson,” Woolford declared.

“In the first couple of months, he was struggling to hold his place in the team but Round 16, 17 and onwards, he was first picked every week.

“His consistency and his performances improved out of sight.

“Guys that we brought up like Tom Starling and Pasami Saulo, they did a really good job.

“If you told Tyrone Amey at the start of the year that he was going to make his NRL debut, he would have laughed at you.

“Lachlan Fitzgibbon spent the first half of the year with us and it was really good to see him go on and perform really well at the NRL level.

“There are a lot of stories to be told, but I’m just really happy with the way they stuck together, worked hard and developed into a really good footy team.”

Next year, Woolford is expecting a few new faces and is looking forward to what 2018 will bring.

“There are quite a few leaving, quite a few staying and quite a few new ones coming as well so I think our team next year will be totally different,” said the ISP coach.

“There will be a core nucleus of young guys there that got a taste this year that I’d imagine would be there for most of next year.

“It will be interesting to see the way we do line up for next year, but there’s a lot of time between now and March next year so we’ll see what we come up with.”

Reserve Grade players in 2017

Nick Meaney - 26 appearances
Braden Robson - 25 appearances
Pat Mata'utia - 24 appearances
Tyrone Amey - 23 appearances
Will Pearsall - 23 appearances
Tom Hughes - 22 appearances
Jacob Gagan - 20 appearances
Bradie Smith - 17 appearances
Faitotoa Faitotoa - 16 appearances
Sam Bernstrom - 15 appearances
Mickey Paea - 15 appearances
Tom Starling - 15 appearances
Thomas Cronan - 14 appearances
Tyler Randell - 13 appearances
Pauli Pauli - 12 appearances
Jack Cogger - 11 appearances
Cory Denniss - 11 appearances
Jaelen Feeney - 11 appearances
Joey Morris - 10 appearances
Lachlan Fitzgibbon - 9 appearances
Chanel Mata'utia - 9 appearances
Pasami Saulo - 9 appearances
Jamayne Taunoa-Brown - 9 appearances
David Bhana - 7 appearances
Brendan Elliot - 7 appearances
Josh King - 7 appearances
Sam Mataora - 7 appearances
Kainoa Gudgeon - 5 appearances
Trent Hodkinson - 5 appearances
Jack Stockwell - 5 appearances
Bryce Donovan - 3 appearances
Sam Stone - 3 appearances
Anthony Tupou - 1 appearance
Brodie Jones - 2 appearances
Dane Tilse - 2 appearances
Joe Wardle - 2 appearances
Rex Johnson - 1 appearance
Cameron King - 1 apperance
Brock Lamb - 1 appearance
Jake McNamara - 1 appearance
Curtis Naughton - 1 appearance
Nathan Ross - 1 appearances
Jacob Saifiti - 1 appearance
Anthony Tupou - 1 appearance
Luke Yates - 1 appearance