North Otago, after a promising start, has slipped to three straight losses in the Heartland Championship. Time for some hard questions to be asked of a talented team that is not firing – and coach Nigel Walsh is happy to face the music. He talks to Hayden Meikle
Q: What happened against Thames Valley on Saturday?
We just didn’t front up in the first 40 minutes. We’d had a really good build-up – travelled well, good team run and then a meeting. Everybody was in the right frame of mind.
Then we go out and concede 33 points in 40 minutes, and that hasn’t happened in a long time.
Q: Can you put your finger on why it went so badly?
It comes down to attitude and mindset. They ran through us, they ran round us and they ran over us. We left the gate open and were very poor defensively.
To the credit of the team, we came out and won the second half, but it was too little, too late.
We know we are capable of better than that, but it comes down to players wanting to take ownership of the situation, and I don’t know where that is at the moment.
On different weeks, different players have let themselves down, and it’s cost us a team.
Q: You’re down to 10th in the Heartland Championship. Are you a better team than that?
Very much so. Yes. I actually think we shouldn’t have had a loss yet.
I believe in the boys, and I believe in the team, and I believe we have a better team than what we had last year.
For whatever reason, we haven’t really gelled as a team over 80 minutes yet.
We tried to have a little bit of fun at training last week to take the pressure off, and we had a fairly cruisy trip up north. Everyone seemed to be jovial and positive, and then the message was to get switched on and be accurate. I thought our preparation was fantastic.
Q: Do the coaches and players now start asking themselves some hard questions?
We’ve got some very hard questions to ask.
Q: When teams lose, you often hear talk of unhappiness in the squad. Are the Old Golds happy?
Very much so. Great bunch of guys, and everybody is getting on well, on and off the field.
They are absolutely gutted in themselves, and disappointed in what has happened in recent weeks.
And I’m asking some questions about us as coaches. Is it something we’re coaching them? Is there something they don’t agree with? Is it the gameplan?
We wanted to keep things simple on Saturday, but when we just don’t tackle, there’s not much you can do.
Q: Mathematically, you can still make the Meads Cup. Plenty to play for?
I am very determined to stay focused and to go as far as we can.
I am not giving up on this team. We still have a chance. We’ve got the team that can do it, and I want them to believe in that too.