You couldn’t help but feel the pain etched in North Shore Mariners’ head coach Joe Haywood’s words when our top tier National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition along with football went into shutdown mode temporarily via COVID-19.
The 2020 season was supposed to be a year of ambition, dreaming and thinking big for the club being a part of the NSW’s elite – Haywood expertly promoted his Mariners squad towards the big leagues only to be met with a speed bump along the way.
That speed bump was a virus.
Prior to the year kicking off, rival NPL NSW Men’s clubs saw the Mariners as easy pickings and three easy points going off their pre-season form – that, and the injury to one of its key signings in former NPL NSW Men’s Player of the Year Panny Nikas, it was little wonder why every NPL critic had them penciled in to struggle this year.
With last year’s Champions APIA Leichhardt FC and 2019 Premiers and NPL Champions Wollongong Wolves penned in for their first two games of the season, no club couldn’t have asked for a tougher draw to kick-off its NPL NSW Men’s journey.
What we then saw prior to lockdown was the total opposite to what the pundits thought.
Haywood’s men earned a 1-1 draw against APIA with ten-men and then traveled to the South Coast in round 2 and defeated the Wollongong Wolves 3-2 courtesy of a 91st minute winner. Two incredible results to send the NPL NSW Men’s league into a spin but Haywood’s troops were brought back down to earth as they were taught a footballing lesson going down 4-0 to the young guns at Sydney FC in round 3.
Ready to hit up round 4, Haywood and the Mariners were hyped to correct their wrongs from the FC match as they faced Blacktown City but alas that game was never to happen via the temporary lockdown of the sport.
Haywood made no secret how much COVID-19 had changed the world but emphasized the importance of keeping safe.
“The COVID-19 virus has changed society, the daily routines of everyone and there will be long-term changes as a result.
“Hopefully we can gain some positives in these tough times though with everyone able to self- reflect on everything they have.
“I have been trying to self-isolate as much as possible with my young family keeping them safe.”
As a coach, Haywood has played a pivotal role in ensuring his players are still doing their bit in keeping fit in the event of the competition recommencing later in the year as well as further improving himself in the coaching philosophy department.
“During this time I have developed some individual homework programs for the players at North Shore Mariners (Please see links below post article)
“I have also been re-designing my football philosophy and updating my documents with new areas that I have developed and or improved throughout the current season.”
It’s not just the players that are keeping fit during this period as the Englishman along with his family are doing their bit in staying in shape.
“We have set up a home gym with the usual dumb bells, ropes, punching bag adding to this runs and bike rides to obtain physical endurance around the local area.
“We are lucky that we have an amazing local park that is a good size with a running track and two artificial pitches.
“I usually attend the local gym 3-4 times a week so obviously I’m missing this routine but trying to make the most of what we have at home to keep fit and healthy.”
In his fifth year at the club, the temporary suspension of the league has seen Haywood stood down from his coaching post like so many have suffered during this tough time until the sport picks back up again, hopefully sooner rather than later.
“During this period I have been stood down from my full-time role at the North Shore Mariners but luckily I have accrued annual leave so I am being paid during this period.
“Although I am officially on annual leave, I have still been working with the aim of trying to improve the football club’s program so that when we return we are in a better position than before.”
Coaching means everything to Haywood, its his way of life and he couldn’t have best said it himself after he was asked what he missed most about our game.
“I miss coaching the senior team.
“I miss working on designing sessions and tactics to beat an opponent and then delivering a week of work in preparation for the next game.
“I cannot wait for the next game to come.”
Like every footballer, coach and referee interviewed recently, Haywood pleaded for the community to stay indoors, practice self-distancing in order for us to get back to our game as soon as possible.
“My main message to the football community is stay inside as much as possible – stay away from other people.
“If we all do this we will stop the spread of the virus and hopefully be able to get back to our daily lives and the game we all love soon.
“I have seen a lot of coaches still doing individual 1 on 1 sessions for example, these need to stop immediately as all other football activities.
“We need to set an example, using the power of our sport, and stay inside and stop the spread.”
Below are some examples of what drills Haywood has put together for the entire North Shore Mariners NPL club