Philadelphia head to Jacksonville on Saturday for the rematch of last year’s championship game with a 9-0 record and a victory in the preseason 9s competition.
The pressure is clearly on the Fight to deliver but Head Coach, Peter Illfield believes that his side have the quality to finish such a dominant season by retaining the USARL title.
The Fight head into the game as favourites having blown away the majority of their opposition this year and Illfield is confident that his side will be both mentally and physically prepared for the challenge; past successes and failures won’t play any part in the motivational team talk ahead of the game though.
“[We] mention past glories and failures in the same breath. We focus on the quality of players we currently have with many local players having long tenures at the club. James Coleman (8 years), Dave Wilmore (8 years), Joel Beasley (8 years), Rich Henson (6 years), Patrick Quirk (6 years), Jared Frymorer (6 years – USA Tomahawks experience), Mike Timpano (4 years). Most of these players know what it’s like not to win a game in a season. They have also won two championships, this being their third appearance in four years.”
The Fight have also seen some talented ‘rookie season’ players pull on the Green, Red and White shirt this year in the form of Roman Lowery, Michael Garvey (Tomahawks and RLWC2013 experience), Andrew Kneisly (Tomahawks) along with Australian imports Tom Dawney, Jackson Springer and Rhys Bowditch. Illfield acknowledges that the success is not down to any ‘standout’ players though, in a team that radiates the true message of rugby league, hard graft, determination and teamwork have all made their way into the team ethic of the Fight.
“Without singling out individuals, the Fight have many talented players who have participated during the season to ensure our berth in the championship final. They are all to be congratulated. You’ll see 17 of them in action on Saturday and it’ll be up to me as the coach to adjust our strategy plan and provide appropriate feedback to the players as the game progresses, as is done every week we play.”
This game is all part of a very successful season for the Fight and a lot of people are expecting another dominant performance but Illfield believes that the pressure is mostly on the Axemen.
“Playing at home is a huge advantage for any team or athlete in any sport and the Axemen will take a lot of confidence into the game because of it. The Fight will need to overcome that and get into the mix but I think it’s Jacksonville, in a cauldron of their family, friends and supporters who have the increased pressure to cope with. It’s all about application on the day. The Fight have the highest respect for the Jacksonville Axemen. We immensely look forward to the contest.”
On Saturday, Peter Illfield will have two heads on. One is of the coach of the Fight in which he has the highest confidence that his players will meet the challenge and win their third championship. The other is that of the USARL Chairman who is thoroughly looking forward to another successful Championship game in a very exciting time for the USARL.
“I am ecstatic, but not surprised, that Daryl ‘Spinner’ Howland and his team at South Eastern Rugby League and specifically the host club, Jacksonville Axemen, will present an event of this magnitude, delivered to audiences in the USA & around the world. With the USARL’s application for NGB status with the RLIF under consideration, this exposure of our game in the USA will provide many opportunities for investment, development & sustainability.”
The USA Rugby League National Championship will be broadcast LIVE at 7pm EST (Sat 23rd) on local Jacksonville TV Station CW17 and also available LIVE ONLINE (http://iknowjax.com/axemen)
Article by Daniel Roberts (@DannyRoberts74)