CASTLEMAINE coach Shane Robertson has put his players on notice, saying he will no longer tolerate the Magpies’ lack of competitiveness against the top Bendigo Football League sides.
While the Magpies won two games in the first half of the season, in their five games against the sides currently in the top five, they lost by margins of 121 points (Gisborne), 124 (Strathfieldsaye), 110 (Eaglehawk), 151 (Sandhurst) and 92 (Golden Square).
The Magpies begin the second half of the season at home on Saturday against third-placed Gisborne, with the players having been told in no uncertain terms what Robertson expects.
“I pulled no punches on Thursday night and drew a line in the sand... we’ve got to advance in the second half of the season on where we’ve been,” Robertson said on Friday.
“Unfortunately with our group, they do a lot of talking, but they’re not doing much on the Saturday, so it has been put on the line to them.”
Known for his aggressive approach to his coaching, Robertson said he had been patient this season, but that patience was now running thin.
“I have been patient and put a lot of things in place. I accept I’m a new coach, it’s a new playing group and young personnel, but nine games down the track you want to see some advancement,” Robertson said.
“There’s no more tolerance and we now need to make sure we get some reward for effort going into next year.
“We always knew the first year was going to be tough, but we’re not going to sit back and use that as an excuse.
“To put it in a nutshell, it’s about playing well in the big games, such as against Gisborne tomorrow.
“You don’t need to be Einstein to understand that we’re competitive against the sides we want to be competitive against, but we haven’t been good enough against those better sides.”
Robertson says lapses in concentration and effort have been the biggest downfall for the Magpies in games against the top echelon of sides.
That’s highlighted in that in each of their games against a side currently in the top five, the Magpies have had at least two quarters where they’ve been outscored by a minimum of 30 points.
“It has been lapses in concentration and effort that have allowed those sides to get out to 10 or 12 goal leads and then we’re competitive for the rest of the game,” Robertson said.
“We spoke about that last night and we’re not going to tolerate any more lapses in those areas.
“We know our good football is competitive, but our bad is really bad.
“Even though we’re a young side, we’re mature enough to understand that we’re good enough to compete for four quarters, not just phase in and out when we want to.
“Last game against Golden Square, our preparation was good, but we never came to play and were blown away in the first quarter and that’s a prime example of where the squad’s at.
“I’m not just going to sit around and cross out the fixture for the rest of the year as we go along, so last night was a bit of a reality check to make sure the players are on the same page as me.”
While Robertson has his players fired-up to compete strongly at Camp Reserve, third-placed Gisborne enters the game on the back of three losses in a row.
“We might be sitting third, but we’re keeping our players very grounded,” Gisborne coach Rod Sharp said.
“We’ve had opportunities to beat top sides over the past few weeks (Sandhurst and Strathfieldsaye), but haven’t done it.
“We had an opportunity to beat Kangaroo Flat last game, but couldn’t do it, so we’re not thinking we’ve done anything great yet.
“It’s obviously pleasing to be sitting third, but we need to start doing a lot of things right to make sure we’re up for the challenge when we play the likes of Golden Square, Sandhurst and Strathfieldsaye again and see where we’re at then.
“But there’s also the challenge to make sure we beat the sides below us again.”
Saturday’s game at Camp Reserve between the Magpies and Bulldogs starts at 2.20pm.