Redbacks veterans hang up boots after missing finals
FOOTBALL: Needing only a draw on the final day of the regular season to secure their finals place, the Gatton Redbacks' search for a first premiership was ended for another year by rivals West Wanderers after a 4-0 loss on Sunday.
Gatton looked to have put a poor run of mid-season form behind them in recent weeks to carry momentum into the crunch part of the season but two losses in their final two games, which included the defeat on the weekend, halted them in their tracks.
Captain Adam Halstead said the game reflected a frustrating season for his side, where they controlled games and created chances but couldn't put teams to the sword.
"We missed opportunities again... we had our fair share of chances in front of goal in the first half,” Halstead said.
"They played scrappy and it was effective for them I suppose.
"We changed formation in the second half to push for goals and got caught out short a couple of times.”
He felt their fifth place finish on the table didn't reflect the way they had played across the year.
"It was gutting really, it hurts the most that the two teams just below us have only won one game between them all year,” he said.
"We outplayed every other team but just couldn't put it all together... we could of sealed our final spot early in the season on how we were playing.
"It came back to hurt us.”
Next season will be a rebuilding effort for the Redbacks.
Long-time players John Zischke and Reece Neumann have hung up their boots, several other players are expected to move on to new clubs to test themselves at a higher level and coach Jon Edwards won't carry on in the role after two years at the helm.
Both Zischke and Neumann came through the junior ranks at Gatton and represented the club for many years but Sunday marked their final time pulling on the red and black jersey.
Zischke is now looking forward to spending some quality time with his wife Erin and two young children Stella and Oscar, while Neumann is set to get married to fiancé Dimity next year and will make the move to Brisbane.
Halstead said the popular Edwards would be sorely missed as he had transformed the Redbacks into a united group that strived to play fluid, attacking football.
"He instilled a playing philosophy, a playing style and really coached to that style,” he said.
"It was also his attitude towards it... he was there two nights a week, at every game and came to training with a plan.
"He respected the players and players paid that back to Jon... he'll leave massive shoes to fill.”
Alongside fellow club stalwart Adam Jackwitz, Halstead was set to call it a day on his time with Gatton at the end of the year but the way the season ended left a bad taste in their mouths.
After a few beers following the game, the pair mulled it over and decided to carry on for at least another year in the hope of bringing home the trophy to the club for first time.
"It was just the way the season finished this year... I still have that fire in the belly to win a premiership,” he said.
The skipper believes changes will make things challenging next season after a couple of settled years but there would at least be a familiar face leading the way, as Jackwitz is expected to take over the reins as player-coach.
"He's been in the game a long time and played at a high level... his influence and knowledge of the game will be really really good for us,” he said.
"All the players have a lot of respect for him, he'll do a really job. He's never negative about anything, he always stays positive.”
They will rely on players stepping up next year from Reserve Grade, who have started preparations for their semi-final fixture in a fortnight, to fill those gaps.