ROD Bartley cited ‘unfinished business’ as the reason he has agreed to stay on as coach of Taree Wildcats in next season’s Football Mid North Coast Premier League.
This will be Bartley’s third year in charge of the Cats. He guided Taree to the semi-finals in 2016 and 17, only to go down in the elimination match both years. Next season he’s determined the Wildcats will go deeper into the playoffs.
Taree’s effort this year needs to be taken in perspective. The Wildcats finished equal third on the ladder, but dropped to fourth on goal differential. Taree then met eventual champions Wallis Lake in the elimination match, where they went down 3-1. Wallis Lake then charged through the playoffs to successfully defend their premiership.
“Realistically, if we’d won that game, we would have won the premiership,’’ Bartley said yesterday.
“The proof's in the pudding there.’’
But that’s consigned to history as Bartley looks at 2018.
“Like most clubs we’ll lose some of our players to uni,’’ he said.
“I’m hearing we could lose up to four or five – but that happens every year.’’
He said the club has issued an invitation players currently involved with the southern all age competition to try their hand at the premier league.
“We’d love to hear from anyone who wants to play in the strongest competition in this area,’’ Bartley explained.
“There’s a good attitude in the club and the morale’s good and it’s been that way for a couple of years now.’’
Bartley expects club stalwarts Ricky Campbell, Jordan Howard, Josh Ferris and Jackson Witts will be starters while he added that younger players from the YD1s will also push for places in the premier league.
The Wildcats will start training at a date to be determined next month and will again be involved with the FFA Cup, where they met with some success last year. Bartley understands there will be a slight change to the format next year meaning the Wildcats won’t play fellow Mid North Coast clubs in the early rounds which he said is a positive.
“I don’t think it’s a good thing to play the sides we meet week-in-week-out in the FFA Cup. If we play different teams it makes it more of a trial game and that’s really what we’re looking for.’’
Nine clubs will again play in the premier league. This will be reduced to eight in 2019 and this will create even more pressure for players and coaching staff, with the club finishing last expected to be relegated.
“The Wildcats will be my sole focus next year – I’m not coaching in the WPL (Women’s Premier League),’’ Bartley said.
He’ll meet with the club’s executive before deciding on Taree’s reserve grade coach.