WALLA coach Trent Ball says the Hoppers’ can emerge from the darkest period in their proud 111-year history when it hosts Rand-Walbundrie this week.
Although it may have only won 2½ matches over the past two seasons, the club’s plight hasn’t been helped by some extenuating circumstances.
The club was first rocked by the tragic loss of coach Merv Neagle in a truck accident in 2012.
The Hoppers’ were then dealt another blow when replacement coach Craig Mannagh was knocked unconscious against Murray Magpies last season.
Mannagh spent the remainder of the season recovering from a brain trauma injury and was replaced by Ball at the start of this year.
Ball said morale remained strong despite not having belted out the club song this season.
“The job has been tougher than I expected but on the other hand I have enjoyed it more than what I thought,” he said.
“The group all get along well and we have plenty of fun, but the morale can change from week to week sometimes depending on our performances.
“Guys can get easily disheartened when losing — but as we have all learnt this year with James McQuillan, football is not always about winning and losing.
“We started to look at things differently, just appreciating being healthy and being able to play each Saturday with your mates and have a kick.”
The form of Albury recruits Sam and Matt Crawshaw has been one of the few shining lights in a bleak season.
Andrew Wood, Tom Stead, Jono Henderson, Shaun Fitzpatrick, Harry Trezise and Mark Sims have also battled hard against the odds.
Ball said there was no quick solution to the Hoppers’ plight but some astute recruiting was high on the priority list.
“There is no quick fix — we need to build things each year — and we obviously need some new talent in recruiting, but we need the right people as well,” he said.
“We are in the process of it now, retaining the group we have and targeting the right people to come to the club.”
Ball defended his tactics of heavy flooding at different stages throughout the season.
“Our backline asked for some help, so at times we get some numbers back there to help out,” he said.
“Any criticism is water off a duck’s back — other peoples opinion’s don’t mean too much to me.”