All eyes look to D.C this weekend as the outcome of their 13s matchup could cement the top 4 giving us an early preview of the finals.
The Slayers have had a tough year by most accounts. Going into the season they expected to be sitting higher on the ladder considering the overall success of their 2011 campaign. This season, with only 2 wins from 5 games, crunch time has arrived earlier than expected against one of the form teams of the competition in the Boston 13s.
D.C. are sitting equal tied in fourth place with only the points differential separating them and the plucky Rebellion. A win against the 13s should secure a finals berth against Jacksonville who are likely to run the table from here on out. A loss with push them further down the ladder and on course for a race chasing “for and against” points until the dying minutes in the last regular season fixture.
This week I spoke with Slayers coach Danny Hanson and asked him about the Slayers season.
USARL: At 2-3 going into a crunch game against the 13s – How would you rate the season so far?
DH: I think the season has gone pretty well so far. We’ve been hit with several injuries to key players early on with some resulting as season ending (John Young and Ben Webber). With that said, I’m proud to say that players like Taylor Braddock and Jeff Perkins have stepped in to fill the roles when we were in a crunch.
USARL: What are the positives of this season?
DH: We retained the core of last year’s dominant team and recruitment has been very good. I’m starting to see players evolve into consistent producers on match day. The Slayers were presented with the toughest schedule this season and even though we had a rough start ending up 1-3 after week 4, I think we gave both Jacksonville and Philadelphia a strong match when we had them at home. We were fortunate to have former Parramatta Eel and current York City Knights coach Chris Thorman run a training session for us this week. Chris was in the DC area and extended the offer and we jumped at the chance. I think you’re going to see a different Slayers side for the rest of the year.
USARL: Who for US players has been a surprise?
DH: Jeff Perkins has stepped out from the shadows and is evolving into a dominant player. We were lucky to get Jeff from the 13′s this season as his job brought him to DC. Jeff shows up to training and matches and gives it 100%.
USARL: Any new players coming through?
DH: The single biggest pickup for us this season is Tom Devin. Tom is a 17 year old American player that grew up in Sydney playing RL. He’s moved back to the states to be with his dad and has filled a gap we’ve had at fullback.
USARL: What are you hopes for remainder of the season?
DH: Like I said earlier, you’re going to see a different, more disciplined Slayers side for the rest of the season. We expect to win the remainder of our matches, make the playoffs and then have a run at the grand final.