Penrith Emus coach Julian Huxley admits while his first season in charge of the battling Shute Shield side was extremely rewarding, it was also very disappointing they weren’t able to record a victory for the third straight year.
Despite a number of close contests mixed in with the usual blowouts, Penrith weren’t able to lift themselves off the bottom of the Shute Shield ladder, recording zero wins from 18 attempts.
However among all the heartbreak, the Emus enjoyed plenty of highlights that will surely put them in good stead for the years ahead.
“The Manly game was fantastic, the boys showed some really good attacking rugby but the best game we played was against Gordon – we absolutely dominated them but weren’t able to close them out,” Huxley told the Weekender.
“It could have been a three or four win season, which would have blown everyone away but it wasn’t to be.”
After a short off-season, Huxley will very soon get back to the drawing board to start planning for 2018 where he’s determined to push his troops harder than ever.
“The biggest thing we need to do is get a big off-season in, we’ve got to work harder and get better,” Huxley said.
“We need our boys to be fit and strong enough to compete. If I think about where we will start this off-season compared to last – it’s night and day.”
Huxley is also expected to do plenty of recruiting this off-season, to strengthen and add depth to the club’s lower grades.
Huxley said he’s already getting calls and text messages from players keen to be a part of Emu Nation next season.
“If we can keep this core group of boys together plus add some guys who have already contacted me about playing next year, we’ll be very tough to beat,” he said.
“We had less numbers this year than any other club, most of our players played 80 minutes every week.”
During what was an up and down year for the Emus, Huxley managed to unearth a number of young stars that could have bright futures in the game.
“There’s a good 10 players that were so impressive. The biggest thing for me is to put them through a full pre-season and get them in shape,” Huxley said.
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.