Jacksonville Axemen Head Coach and utility player, Mat Keeley is hoping that his side can get over the pain of losing to the Fight in last year’s final to reign supreme in their own backyard of Jacksonville this Saturday in the much anticipated rematch.
“We don’t focus too much on the past, the history books are written, the Fight were the best in 2013, no doubt the boys remember losing last year but 2014 is a new year, we have a number of new players and are a very different outfit to last season.”
After a 3 week break from competitive games the Axemen were worried that match fitness would be an issue, however, after a 5 day break from all rugby activity, Keeley had the team back to work with practices consisting of fitness and game based drills.
“Leading up to the game, we will focus on the little things that win games. In a sense the next week is about reinforcing everything we have learnt this season and putting that into practice.”
Keeley states that, unlike any other team he has coached before, the Axemen have no ‘stars’ to rely on in what is sure to be a tough final. He believes that their strength in depth has been a key factor to the successes this season and that players coming off the bench have been a huge asset. The final is expected to be very physical early on so it could well be a forwards game and in games like this the whole team needs to work for each other and come together as Keeley has seen Championship games won or lost in the first 20 minutes.
As focused as he is on the strengths and abilities of his own team, Keeley has not disregarded the sheer quality of his opposition in the Philadelphia Fight.
“The Australian trio at the Fight are an obvious threat combined with Garvey and Wiggins. Without playing them this year they are a bit of an unknown force. The Fight also have some great American players who don’t often get a lot of credit and have won 2 of the past 3 national championships. You only have to look at their for and against this season, they can obviously score points and we respect how good they are and know that we will need to be at our best to beat them.”
It is a rematch of last year’s final and although both teams boast an unbeaten season, Keeley believes that the Fight are the obvious favourites.
“No team has come close to them this season. They have dominated the finals series in the North and are the current holders of the Championship trophy.”
However, that doesn’t mean that his side aren’t up to the challenge and he can picture the Axemen going the distance and spoiling the Fight’s perfect record.
“If we turn up, hold our composure and each individual does his job then I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t bring the silverware back to Jacksonville. It’s really exciting to have the championship game at home, there is no doubt that it is tough for teams to come down here and handle the heat and our fan base is second to none and what better way to win a championship than in your home city.”
Article by Daniel Roberts (@DannyRoberts74)