Starting from scratch
When Kim Williams set about over-hauling a Central Queensland Capras roster that had won just one game in the previous Intrust Super Cup season, his reach knew no boundaries.
He recruited players from England, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Melbourne and Fremantle, delving into his vast array of rugby league contacts to build a team that could be competitive despite not having an attachment to an NRL club.
Like their opponents at Browne Park in Rockhampton this Sunday the PNG Hunters, the Capras must function without NRL support and the weekly injection of talent into their team of players who are engaged in full-time training.
None of Williams' charges are full-time rugby league players and must juggle work commitments with their commitment to the team, something that has hampered the club in recent years as players have been drawn away to mining jobs that often require weekend work.
In Williams' team this weekend, he will have labourers, meatworkers, baristas and even a real estate agent and concedes that getting that aspect of their lives right is one of the club's greatest challenges at present.
“It's a really tough economic climate here at the moment so it is by far and away our biggest challenge,” Williams said.
“Finding them all employment has definitely been the biggest challenge and we've still got a couple of guys who are unemployed so that challenge continues.
“We've got guys coming out of Under 20s systems with NRL clubs with no real qualifications so it's a dose of reality when they go for a labouring job in a town like this and there's another 200 people who have applied for the same job, many of whom have qualifications and some experience.
“My biggest worry is blokes sitting at home worrying about work, family and footy because then you encounter some mental health issues and that's certainly an ongoing challenge.
“When they're away from home and if they're unemployed and then they cop an injury on top of that, that can become a real problem. That's when the problems start to arise.”
With four wins through 10 rounds, the Capras are on course for their best ever season in the Intrust Super Cup and have done so with a completely remodelled roster.
When he accepted the position, Williams reviewed every game from 2015 and examined the existing roster meticulously, retaining only half of those who wore the Capras jersey last season.
He reached out to his wide array of contacts for some new additions, but stressed that there is a long-term plan in place with the establishment of improved pathways into the Capras senior grades.
“It needed some quick changes in some respects to get some confidence, respect and pride back into the club; but we're also looking long-term with some academies and rookie program in place,” said Williams, who took the Cutters to a premiership in 2013.
“I spent seven years in Perth so I've got some strong ties over there and recruited from there nearly every year that I've been coaching in the Intrust Super Cup and had a fair level of success with players I've got from there.
“I know Frank Endacott very well in New Zealand so he's a very good source for me and from having lived in so many different places I've got a very good network.”
Two of Williams' recruits he knew from his time with the junior teams at the Melbourne Storm, but conceded that both Maipele Morseau and Brandon Manase have exceeded his expectations to date.
“Maipele was a standout in schoolboys and came through St Brendan's here in Yeppoon and he got player of the year for me in the Storm Under 18s,” Williams said.
“He went to Newcastle to play Under 20s, but did an ACL and then spent two years playing park footy in Cairns.
“He's playing some fantastic footy and getting back to the level he was as a schoolboy in terms of being a standout.
“The other standout it is Brandon. He was injured last week, but up until that point he'd been outstanding for us and I was a bit disappointed to be honest that he didn't get a run in the Queensland Residents team.
“He is one I can see going further in the game if he continues to work as hard as he has so far this year.
“The community is certainly starving for us to be successful and they want to get behind us and the crowds have been excellent to date. I'm sure plenty will turn out to see us play PNG and the style of footy they play on Sunday.”
In a town that is doing it tough, there has never been a better time for the Capras to use their unique position to become a beacon of hope to the community.
A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland Correspondent for NRL.com.
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