SEASON REVIEW | Wentworthville Magpies
It was a year full of promise for the Wentworthville Magpies after finishing one place outside the top eight in 2017, but a year of unfulfilled potential would follow after finishing 10th this season.
They enjoyed five wins throughout the opening 10 rounds but their losses within that period proved heavy – a three game losing streak between Rounds 2 and 4 included a 46-0 thumping to Blacktown Workers and 44-4 lost to Wests two weeks later.
But they quickly found some success with four wins in their next five games to move into sixth place on the competition ladder, but couldn't maintain their form through the middle part of the season with six consecutive losses.
They leaked a combined total of 200 points in those six defeats which ended up being 34% of their total points conceded at the end of the regular season (583) – a costly number that ultimately proved influential in their below par season.
The Magpies ended their season ion a positive note that will give them a wealth of confidence heading into the new year, grinding their way to three wins in their final four fixtures – all by a margin of just six points or less.
While it was a disappointing year for Nathan Cayless' men, the club will be bolstered by their successful Ron Massey Cup squad who claimed back-to-back premierships and boast and abundance of young talent, such as Player of the Year Beau Henry, that will undoubtedly put them in good stead for 2019.
The Key Number
Consistency among the playing squad is key to on-field performance but injuries and a changing roster saw a competition-high 52 players used in their Intrust Super Premiership squad this season.
Changes to their spine saw Bevan French, Jaemon Salmon, Arana Taumata, Dylan Brown, Reed Mahoney, Nathan Milone and Abbas Miski all form combinations at various stages throughout the year, with the unfamiliarity coming to fruition in the latter part of the year.
The side boasted some strong First-Grade experience with the likes of French, Kane Evans and Josh Hoffman playing big roles throughout 2018, but the balance of experience and youth wasn't enough against some of the heavyweight contenders.
But the large number of players reflects a strong depth among the Eels and Magpies ranks, with Miski and Milone prime examples of how some players can seamlessly progress from the Ron Massey Cup into the ISP.
The Rising Star
There's no shying away from the fact the Magpies and Parramatta Eels will be looking to move on as quickly as possible from their disappointing 2018 campaigns, but the emergence of five-eighth Jaeman Salmon is one that can't be forgotten quickly.
It capped a remarkable comeback for the 19-year-old after he broke his C1 vertebrae in 2017, with his stellar form in the early rounds of the season too good to ignore.
A hat-trick of tries against the Wyong Roos in Round 10, just his second game of ISP, was the start of a stellar season which saw him earn five First-Grade appearances.
The invaluable experience will pay dividends for young star in 2019 as he looks to make a name for himself in the NRL.
Room For Improvement
The chopping of changing of the playing squad can make it difficult to establish combinations and it may have had an influence on their attack at times this year as tey were second last in the competition for tries scored (77).
They did well to manage their injury toll with some character-building efforts in the later stages of the year, however, will be looking to capitalise on their chances more consistently in 2019.
They are certainly no short of attacking flair with the likes of Hoffman and Gregory Leleisalo, but with greater stability among the squad and luck going their way, they will pose as a lethal side with plenty of potential.
How It Will Be Remembered
It wasn't the year that most expected from the Wentworthville Magpies, but their improved performances at the back end of 2018 will put them in good stead for next season.
The 52 players who managed to play in the Intrust Super Premiership will be better for the experience, and the development of some of the younger athletes will prove instrumental in their quest for finals football.
Change is imminent after coach Nathan Cayless signed a two-year deal with the Warriors for next year, but his influence on the side under his guidance will put the Magpies in the best position possible to challenge for a spot in the top eight.