by Sky Knight
With three WPL league matches down and three to go, the All Blues are taking a step back to look at the road we've travelled, where we stand now, and the path ahead of us. In this time we're reflecting on what we want out of this season and how we are going to get there. In the words of head coach Katrina Logan, “it's been a tough first half of the WPL season. So far this season we're 0-3 and we were unable to put any points on the board last match.” To some extent, this can be chalked up to growing pains. With as new a squad as this one – for reference there is only one returning back from last WPL season – and with as many as 10 players sidelined due to injury, the lineup on Saturdays is in a constant state of flux, which is a great opportunity for younger players to get playing time, but is a challenge when seeking on-field cohesion. Many would look at our situation and phone it in for the rest of the season. But as our coach firmly states, “we're not going to do that.”
With the strong legacy of the All Blues, the tough spot we're in this season in terms of our outcome goal (win the championship) is unfamiliar to many, and we've had to adjust ourperspective accordingly. Our outcome goal is still to win the championship, and with the strong culture we're building of individual and full-squad improvement, that goal is not out of reach. Coach Logan identifies an important step we have taken - developing concrete and measurable goals that focus on specific aspects of the game. “For example”, she says, “we wanted to increase the percentage of tackles we made behind the gainline, emphasizing our launch on defense, and we were able to do so in our last game, a significant improvement in our defensive effort despite our lackluster performance in attack.” To reach these concrete on-field performance goals, we've raised the intensity level at practices over the past week, driving each other to improve, and we're holding extra training and fitness sessions to sharpen our skills and step up our work rate.
Despite the scores, backs captain Lauren Rhode points out, “there have been flashes of brilliance in our first three matches -- of note, Kedra and Angie hitting crash lines at pace for major gains, and Bulou and Ardia slicing and dicing on the outside into space. In the next three matches, we'll look to convert those moments into points.” Coach Logan adds that, “we have also seen a lot of potential with players like Courtney, a relative newcomer to rugby with great athletic ability - being able to build a strong foundation with her on fundamentals like tackling and clearing out has been beneficial. This season has also been a great opportunity for younger players like Bulou and Frieda to take on more leadership roles within the team, and with great role models like Katy Augustyn, they have been able to learn from the best.” Our progress is due in part to the wonderful and supportive people who volunteer their time working with the team, including Jen Crawford and Ruth Bryson who have been kind enough to make time to help with the backs at practice. We look forward eagerly to our next match against the Surfers, in which we will be focusing on our defensive structure and with some injured players hopefully coming back off the bench, it should be an exciting match! Finally, best of luck to Bulou who will be on contract with the US 7s program in Chula Vista. We'll see you at the pitch!