Struggling Tigers look to the future

After four premierships in six years, Sunbury Tigers knew they were due for a down year in Victorian Rugby League first grade.

And they were right. The Tigers won only four games for the year, a far cry from premiership success 12 months ago.

The Tigers finished seventh in what may look like a poor season, but coach Jamie Blackwood said it was anything but.

“It was tough as we lost lots of players,” he said before the club’s final game of the season, a 40-24 loss to Casey.

“We lost a whole team through players leaving, long-term injuries and losing players we normally get from Melbourne Storm. We have started the rebuilding process.”

Blackwood said the club had resigned itself to the fact it would lose access to Melbourne Storm’s under-20s, but that had come a year earlier than expected.

“We’ve been getting seven to eight players,” he said. “Now it’s one or two, which puts a dint in weekly plans.

“The NRL under-20 competition is ending at the end of next year, so Storm has decided to keep its players in New South Wales and Queensland, as it is more cost-efficient.

“They’ve had a massive injury list this year, which hasn’t helped either.”

Blackwood said while losing Storm players hurt Sunbury, it cleared the way for the club’s junior players.

“It’s control, alt and delete and start all over again,” he said. “We’ll focus on under-14, under-16s and under-18 and we have a development program in the pipeline.

“This season is the first time we’ve had under-18, and five of those have played in first division.”

Sale Finau and David Matangi are two players who have stepped up from under-18s.

Blackwood said captain Scott Matthews had also been sensational, while Terry Constantinou was again among the best players.

“We’ll build around these players,” he said.

Blackwood, who is in his first season as sole coach after working with Julian Keddy for the previous two years, said he would love to coach the team again.

“We’re pretty happy with where we are,” he said.