Rob Marsden: Time for Leeds Force to repay Matt Newby’s faith – just as we did last season

Matt Newby
Matt Newby
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First of all I hope you all had a happy Christmas and you are enjoying these festive times with all those close to you.

Christmas is a quiet affair for me. All the family get together and have a good time. That’s what this time is all about right?

As Leeds Force players we had been given some time off by our coach Matt Newby to enjoy ourselves, but within reason of course. He trusted us enough to do that so we didn’t overstep the mark.

Jermaine (Sanders) flew back to America to see his family, Dizi (Disraeli Lufadeju) went down south to be with his and Jack (Isenbarger) went to Portsmouth. Well, he says he had fun at least!

But now we are all back together, and no one seems to have put on too much turkey weight from Sunday which is good.

We head to Leicester Riders on Friday (7.30pm) hoping to give our season the kickstart we so desperately crave.

Right now we’re struggling. Leeds Force have won three of our 13 matches and sit 11th in the 12-team BBL.

We’re only four points off the top eight, so play-off qualification is by no means out of the question.

And for a confidence booster, we need only look at what happened 12 months ago.

So as 2016 draws to a close, this is an opportune time to use this week’s column to reflect on the year.

And it’s been a massive one for me and Leeds Force.

It didn’t start off too well – we started 2016 in a bit of a rut.

We were losing heavily and our confidence was quite low.

Coach Newby picked us up, he always had faith in our talent and knew we could turn it round.

Boy, did we. We always planned to get in the play-offs in our second season but for a long time it looked like we would fall short.

However, we got on a strong run towards the end of the season which pushed us right into contention.

It came down to us and Cheshire Phoenix to see who would take that final place in the top eight of the BBL.

There were some really special performances from everyone on that roster, but Marek Klassen was that extra piece of the jigsaw that got us over the line.

I will always remember that win against table-toppers Leicester Riders towards the end of the season.

They came up to us and we blitzed them start to finish.

That game showed everyone what we are about and how we could mix it with the big boys.

They did get their revenge on us in the play-offs.

But we made it difficult for them. They had to be at their very best.

Over the summer there was a big turnaround in players. Guys like Marek (Klassen), Louis (Sayers), Zak (Wells) and Kwan (Waller) all left.

The recruitment policy was strong – credit to the coach – and we talented, strong, young players came in, the likes of Rob (Sandoval), Jack (Isenbarger), Jermaine (Sanders) – I could go on but that would take up too many pages.

We started well, beating our Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Sharks.

As a Doncaster lad I for one loved that.

Then we hit another bad patch and wins have been hard to come by recently.

Sometimes we have played really well and been unlucky. Other times we have deserved to lose.

But we can turn it all around by beating the Riders on Friday and finishing the year off in style.

Then we can push higher up the table and be comfortable in the play-offs.

It’s all about progression here at Leeds Force.

So here’s to a great 2016 and hopefully, with your support, an even better 2017.

We are Force!

Interview: Arif Ahmed