Commit, or quit: Roosters coach calls out Atherton players

Atherton’s hopes of repeating their impressive run to the FNQRL A-grade finals could be in tatters before a ball is kicked as player numbers and commitment threatens to sideline the proud club.

ATHERTON’s hopes of repeating their impressive run to the FNQ Rugby League A-grade finals could be in tatters before a ball is kicked as player commitment threatens to sideline the proud club.

The Roosters reached the finals last year in a season during which they promised much, but were plagued by injury and ultimately brought undone.

The club’s under-18s won the premiership, with several teenage guns regularly getting time in A-grade to help their transition to the senior squad.

Much of that was through work by coach Graham Clark Snr, who has used his few years at the club to meet the club’s dream ideal of filling it’s top side with local talent.

But the loss of several players through retirements, injuries, further education outside of the region and cashed-up rival clubs, has the Roosters in dire straits.

And Clark may not be there to see it out, making clear his future with the club hinges on the commitment of the players.

“Unless we have a team which is going to be competitive, I’m unsure of my position,” Clark said.

“I don’t want to work with a team which doesn’t want to compete, which isn’t committed.

“It’s a fair effort for me to travel to and from the club three times a week, and if they’re not committed they’re wasting everybody’s time.”

The Roosters are humming off the pitch, with plenty of support for a club which has represented Atherton for more than century.

But a lack of volunteers and commitment from players could hurt their hopes of fielding three men’s teams this year.

Clark isn’t taking any shots at those who have that commitment, nor at those who have given years to the club. But there is a disconnect which is preventing Atherton from reaching its goals.

“People start businesses, some have given eight to 10 years to the club, and it’s not a shot at them at all,” he said.

“It’s the younger generation, there are a lot of guys who take for granted what people do and have done for the club.”

Clark loves coaching. He’s given years to the club and is in the midst of a multi-year project developing some quality footballers.

But he only wants to lead the side if they want to play and wear the jersey with pride.

And he has called for the club to pull together before it’s too late.

“The club needs to sort out which direction it’s going,” he said. “We had our agenda of wanting a team made up of local players.

“But the reality is that the kids we have coming through the grade have been successful, and for one reason or another they’re not staying on and playing.

“We need more people to step up to the plate off the field as well.”

Atherton will celebrate the 30-year anniversary of their 1993 premiership team on the weekend of May 26-28.

The side was the first to win a title after the club joined the Cairns competition.

The Roosters are scheduled to kick-off their season at home against defending premiers Brothers on March 25.

Originally published as Atherton Roosters coach Graham Clark’s warning for players

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