Dyldam Parramatta Eels Junior Representative SG Ball Head Coach had nothing but praise for his young Blue and Gold side after their 2016 campaign ended in the Semi Finals of the competition.
With the majority of the SG Ball squad under age, Cayless said it was a challenging task to prepare them for football, but also guide them through plenty of off-field challenges.
“It was always going to be challenging, we had a lot of kids that were coming up from a very successful under 16 Harold Matthews season,” Cayless said at the 2016 District Representative Awards Night.
“85% of our squad were a year young, but to their credit, all of our award winners tonight were a year young. It’s not taking away anything from the guys that were the right age, as a group they worked extremely hard and we demanded, not only myself but Scott Jones (Harold Matthews Coach), a lot from them at training.”
“We maybe went a little bit crazy with the stuff they were doing at training but we wanted to see how far they could go and they really responded to it,” Cayless added.
“At the end of the day, you are hopeful you are making a bit of influence on their life, not only with footy but as young men.”
However the influence that Cayless has had on his player’s lives off the field is what is most rewarding to the Eels legend.
“Dealing with 16-17 year olds is always very challenging with the world that we have out there at the moment, with social media, girlfriends, cars and school, plus some guys work as well,” Cayless said.
“There is a lot to juggle so you learn pretty quickly as a coach that you aren’t just teaching them to catch pass, you are teaching them life skills.”
“It’s sometimes a little bit more rewarding when you see a guy who has a lot of adversity at home, come through and play some good footy."
“It was a very enjoyable year, I wasn’t too sure a couple of seasons ago about the coaching side of things, but as soon as I started I was hooked and I really enjoyed it.” Cayless added.
Cayless had nothing but praise for the way his young SG Ball side handled the end of their season.
After going down in the Semi Finals to the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the Head Coach says his side continued to come to training to assist with the Harold Matthews team with the preparation, despite their 2016 campaign already coming to an end.
It was a testament to how close they had become.
“Jonesy asked the question, and I asked the boys, but they all turned up, would come in on a Friday night and do an opposed training session against the Harold Matthews side and they did that for three weeks at the end of their season,” Cayless recalled.
“We didn’t make them do that, they wanted to do that, and it just shows the respect they have for each other. They became really tight, not only the 18’s and 16’s as a team, but as a whole group because they go through so much hard work.”
“We start pre-season training at the start of November, pretty much when the NRL starts, four days a week, and very tough training so you get that bond through the hard work you go through”
“The Harold Matthews went all the way, we were unlucky with a couple of things in our game against Souths but the boys just need to learn from that and work a little bit harder.”
And with some of the Blue and Gold SG Ball side now making the step up into the Eels Holden Cup side, along with several representative sides, Cayless says it is a great reward and took plenty of satisfaction in seeing his players one step closer to their goals.
“It was a huge honour and a huge buzz. It was a lot of our Under 17 kids who have gone up there as well, and a lot of the kids that have made rep sides,” Cayless said.
“It’s always nice to have success at the junior rep level. We want to show to everyone how good our program is, but to me and a lot of people in the club, it is about how many of these young men we can see achieve their goals, and that’s playing in the NRL.” Cayless added.
“Hopefully they all have goals of playing in the NRL and that’s when we know we have done a good job.”
“Congrats to the Harold Matthews guys for winning the National and Grand Final, but to see them in hopefully three or four years, playing in the NRL that’s when you get a real sense of satisfaction.”