With the 2014 GNSW season looming, the UTS Division 1 Mens Team has been hard at work putting a full preseason together in preperation to improve on their 8-4 record from last year. Boasting a roster filled with seasoned veterans and athletic rookies, the team looks to take out it’s first Waratah Bowl this year after coming agonisingly close in recent years.
Returning Head Coach Rocco Bosco has held the top job of the UTS team for the last few seasons and has spoken of the teams work in building on foundations laid out in previous seasons “Our strengths are threefold: 1. The systems we have in place are continuing to improve and embed themselves in the fabric of the team. This will allow us to compete with every team. 2. Our veteran leadership is primed after a solid preseason. 3. We have a very good crop of rookies who will make an immediate impact”. When asked of the impact on the team with the loss of Jean Prill, Coach Bosco had this to say “The loss of Jean has been monumental, not just that he was the starting QB, but the universal respect he had from his peers and coaches and the way he lead from the front. It has forced several changes, with greater emphasis placed on the rest of the offence to get it right. In the past we could have been accused of relying on Jean too much, now we can’t and have worked harder on the individual offensive positions to improve, to ensure a successful transition for our new QB. So it’s not a case of replacing a Team MVP, but driving the player group to each want to make their mark.”
Coach Antonio Piscioneri also returns to his familiar role at Defensive Coordinator, he has highlighted the different levels of experience as a strength of the defence “I think we have a good mix of experience and youth. This year our experienced players are healthy and should get through the season. Our younger players are picking up the playbook and settling into the team well. So if we can stay healthy and maintain our focus we should have a great defence.” He also mentioned that the key to winning will start with their preperation “We need to understand what our opponent is trying to do, match them and definitley not miss tackles!”
Taking a quick look at each positional group for the Gators:
Quarterbacks: After enjoying the play of Jean Prill at the helm over the last few seasons, his departure from the team last year leaves it open to contention from rookies and veterans alike.
Running Backs: UTS has always had fantastic speed behind the offensive line, this year is no exception.
Receivers: A lot of solid veterans pick up the gloves again this year and show a lot of promise to improve the air attack. They are supported by a hungry group of rookies.
Offensive Line: After a few years of struggling to maintain consistency on the line, the engine room of the team looks at it’s best this year with a mix of experience and youth giving the group a very good outlook to pave the way in 2014.
Defensive Line: They have found a good balance of strength and speed this preseason with some new additions to the group. Probably the most hotly contested spot on the team with great depth through to even 3rd string.
Linebackers: Another group with returning players being selected to national and state teams over the offseason. The linebacking corps looks to improve again on a good 2013 season.
Defensive Backs: The group with the most fresh faces will be looking forward to a great season behind the front 7. Expect to see returning veterans and rookies battling for the spots right through the season.
With the influx of new players this preseason in every position, rookie Dexter Escuardo has given some insight into what it’s like for a first year player at the Gators “I’ve found the transition to gridiron quite overwhelming, being the first contact sport I’ve played. It’s easy to underestimate the position I’ve been playing (Offensive Line), I’d assumed that I would need to be bulky and huge but I’ve found that other attributes contribute to the position as much as size.” After attending every training session and helping the club when needed, it was no surprise what Dexter’s goal for the season was, “Ideally my main goal to this season is contribution. I just want to contribute wherever I can, whether it be fundraisers, training or games. I have come to admire the club and look forward to continuing my football career here.”
Returning veteran and NSW Wolfpack player Andrew Asher has praised the efforts of the rookies and how difficult it will be for players to keep a starting position from them “They’re forcing us to work harder than previous seasons but most of all they’re creating good depth for us at key positions.” When asked about the game he was most looking forward to it was a pretty simple answer “Lions, it’s always a tough game but I’m also keen to suit up against the Ducks, it’ll be the first time I’ve played against my old club.”
The Gators will open the season at 5Sports against the Wollongong Mustangs on the 23rd of August at 1pm in what should be a good test for the team after arguably one of their best wins of the season last year down at Wollongong.
Get down and support your UTS Gators in their run to the 2014 Waratah Bowl!