The Kempsey Cannonballs brought down the curtain on a difficult season on Saturday but there were plenty of positives to take out of the year despite neither senior side reaching the finals series.
The Cannonballs rarely fielded a full strength side with a mountain of injuries derailing their pre-season goal of reaching back-to-back grand finals.
However, the absence of their starters forced younger players into the side and they excelled in the top grade.
“We were missing anywhere from seven to 10 first graders for nearly every match,” Cannonballs coach Jared Fuller said.
“The young fellas who came in to replace them will grow an extra leg from the experience and will be a lot better off in the long run.”
To the Cannonballs’ credit, instead of laying down and giving up when their key players were sidelined, they stepped up another gear and remained competitive, giving themselves a chance of finals footy until the second last week of competition.
“Our senior players Braden Farrawell, Carl Thurgood, Scott Witchard and Corey Gale really stepped up and were role models for the rest of the side and showed the others how to take each game,” Fuller said.
“We never lost a game due to a lack of effort.”
Fuller will step aside from the coaching role after four years but believes the side can be optimistic for next year.
“The majority of the blokes will be back on deck next year,” Fuller said.
“I will be stepping down for someone else with new ideas and a new voice to take the boys to the next level.”
The Cannonballs have two junior teams in the finals series with the U14s finishing in second place and the U18s team, which is combined with Port Macquarie Pirates, finishing in fourth.
The U14s face the Southern Cross University Marlins for a spot in the grand final while the U18s play an elimination final against the Hastings Valley Vikings this Saturday.
“Hopefully the junior players can filter through into the senior sides in the near future,” Fuller said.