AFTER being on the end of a 125-point belting from Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes in round nine, Leeton-Whitton coach Sam Darley and a handful of senior players had had a gutful.
It was time for a shot between the eyes from the first-year mentor, and to the group's credit the response has been immediate.
Disappointed with his team's attitude toward training, Darley asked some tough questions. They've been answered with a commendable three-point road loss to Wagga Tigers, before an easy win over Griffith last week.
"It was probably after the Mango game, I was pretty abrupt," Darley said.
"I said I'm investing a lot of time and effort, not only from a coaching aspect but what I'm trying to put out when I play as well.
"The numbers we were putting out on the track, I said I've got a seven-month-old child and would prefer to be home at night if only eight people turn up, its genuinely a waste of time.
"It was pretty abrupt, but the good part about that message was there was four or five players who drove it as well. It wasn't pre-empted, I didn't tell them to say it. They stood up and said their own piece.
"I think that's why it held a fair bit of weight. On the track before the Tigers we had about 20 players at training on Tuesday and that's just continued on.
"We played well against Wagga, and on the weekend we should have won by 100 points (if we kicked accurately).
"It was extremely pleasing they backed it up. It's taken half a year for us to be there, but against the Tigers we turned a massive corner.
"The other thing more players on the track does is players who shouldn't have been playing senior footy or weren't putting in the effort because they couldn't be dropped, that's gone.
"If you don't go to training or you're dragging arse, you don't play. That healthy competition in the footy club makes a big difference.
"I said you're not making a conscious decision not to get better and buy in, so why should we waste our time? I'd said it a couple of times before already but probably not as abrupt, and they've really taken it on board which is pleasing."
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The win over the Swans was just their second of the year, but allowed them to move off the bottom of the ladder.
Despite this former AFL player Darley is just a point behind leader Jacob Olsson (GGGM) in Riverina League player of the year voting.
"To sit 12 months out , you get a bit nervous wondering if you're still as good," he said.
"I've been pleased personally with how I've gone in most games, but I've achieved my dream of playing AFL footy. I get more of a kick out of guys improving.
"It gets frustrating when it's me and Bryce O'Garey and Ryan Grey again, I want the other guys to take their game to the next level.
"While it's nice to get a few votes, I'd replace them with a few more wins.
"I feel like it's disrespectful to some of our other blokes for them to say that Sam's the only bloke we have to worry about, and then the rest of them they don't rate.
"I take that as being disrespectful to our guys because some of them can play, and it was pleasing after the weekend that we could say all 21 guys played well."
Darley said the improvement in commitment and performance had given him optimism for the second and final year of his current deal next season.
"If I can see the club going forward it does give me optimism for next year. We'll go out and try and recruit hard, but also develop what we've got," he said.
"The people you've got from your area they potentially play for ten years or more. And when you bring in guys from successful clubs they bring standards with them, then there's 10-15 people driving the standards instead of three or four.
"But firstly we want development in the guys we've already got, that's the most important part."
The Crows will head to third-placed Coolamon on Saturday confident they can spring an upset, with the Hoppers looking to bounce back from close losses to Turvey Park and Collingullie-Glenfield Park.
They will be boosted by the return of a handful of players, including Josh Thomas and Angus Boulton after they missed last week due to COVID quarantine, while
"If we play like we did on the weekend, I'm supremely confident we're in the game or we win it," Darley said.
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