A family atmosphere and mateship, are what Cowra Magpies president Marc McLeish sees as special about the Magpies of 2018 who take on Bathurst Panthers for the Group 10 title at Sid Kallas Oval on Sunday.
Outside of the playing field McLeish believes the club is also better because of the committee he has around him.
“The committee is bigger this time around,” he said after the club faced the real possibility at the end of the 2017 season of not being able to put a side on the field.
“The last time I did this is 2012 we had a very small committee and it was very stressful.
“This year it is everyone doing their little bit. While we could always use a few more volunteers the whole club just gets on.
“It’s one big group of mates.”
Responding to speculation the club has spent big to secure this year’s Group 10 title McLeish says the Magpies have actually spent “surprisingly little”.
“I think we’ve spent a fraction of what other clubs have spent.
“Obviously quality players are going to cost you sometimes, but the local boys, after being questioned said they just wanted to start winning a few games.
“So they’ve been very accommodating in allowing us to get what we need to make it happen.
“The imported players have just bought into what we are trying to do.
“I was quite surprised how little we had to spend to build the squad we’ve got.”
Regardless of Sunday’s result McLeish is hopeful the Magpies will retain the bulk of this year’s squad for season 2019.
“Most of them are talking (about staying), I think once again it comes down to how well everyone is getting on.
“If you compare this squad to the 2014 one there are still a lot of those guys here, they’re a little bit older, a little bit more established in their family lives and a little bit more settled.
“I think we’ll retain a good 80 per cent of the squad, if we do lose anyone I think it will be more due to retirements rather than going to other clubs.”
The Sutton Influence
Asked about the difference coach Steve Sutton has made to the Magpies, McLeish was glowing in his praise of the 2018 Group 10 coach of the year.
“Steve’s willingness to pick up the ball and run with it is the biggest asset from my point of view,” McLeish said.
“His rapport with the players is great, his pulling power with the players is also great.
“His junior representative coaching commitments from a few years back is now having contacts with the kids in their mid 20s that can play football.
“As far as making contact with potential players it is just outstanding how he is able to manage it and once he’s got them he runs a good professional, tight ship and speaks with knowledge on the game.
“That’s what we want, going into games with a plan, going into a season with a plan and actually executing those plans.
“It’s just good to be able to hand the football over to Steve and sit back and look after the committee side of things.
“That’s obviously been added to by Kurt Hancock this year,” he said of the former Bathurst St Pat’s coach who has joined the Magpies coaching staff.
Hancock coached Bathurst St Pats when they defeated the Magpies in the 2014 grand final.
“We have got two experienced heads that work well together and that’s showed dividends,” he said of the Sutton Hancock combination.
Magpies at full strength
McLeish is expecting five games of high class football with the first match of the day kicking off at 9am.
“Looking at the semi finals, it’s going to be a great day of football.
“There has been a lot of overtime (in the lead up games), a lot of tight games in the lower grades as well,” he said.
And the good news for Cowra supporters is that the Magpies expect to field a full strength team on Sunday after having one week off after the major semi final win against Orange Hawks who were defeated by Panthers last weekend.
“No injury clouds at all,” McLeish said of the Magpies.
A win on Sunday would cap off a big year for the Cowra club.
At the Group 10 awards held last week the club captain Josh Rainbow took out the first grade player of the year award and coach Steve Sutton was named coach of the year. The Magpies were also minor premiers.
Grand final day entertainment
The Magpies have a few special things planned for Sunday to run alongside the football.
“There’ll be a few special things, we have Torsion (dance group) and Dinawans Connection Indigenous dance group coming over but with five grades of football the schedule is pretty tight.
“We may not be able to do what we always do but there’ll be some bells and whistles and a bit of fun,” he said.
Cowra Musical and Dramatic star McKenzie Tarrant will sing the National Anthem before the main game kicks off.