FOR many of us the New Year is just days old, but for the revamped Emerald Eagles line-up, plans to tackle the challenges ahead in 2012 began more than six months ago.
The new-look senior men's football side has been pushing the boundaries on the training pitch in readiness for its debut in the Central Queensland competition, and late last year took its new breed of players to Mackay for the city's annual eight-a-side competition.
The Emerald recruits excelled, with one of the two sides fielded for the tournament missing out on a grand final berth by just one goal.
The Eagles lost 2-1 to local Mackay side StemSafe, which reportedly was comprised almost entirely of players from state league side the Whitsunday Miners.
"We should have won, we should have beaten them," Eagles coach John Salogni said.
"But we only had a 20-minute turnaround between that one and our last game.
"It makes it hard."
Later this month, the Eagles will face the biggest test yet, a trial match against state side the Capricorn Cougars in Blackwater.
With the backing of a fine performance in Mackay, it would be unwise of the Cougars to underestimate this Central Highlands outfit.
"The team gelled, their fitness held out… they really made Emerald proud," Salogni said.
"All of them outperformed but (Ben) Millar was the standout."
The Eagles' strike weapon has since moved out of the region but will return for one last hurrah as captain for Emerald when they take on the Cougars.
If the Cougars needed any convincing on the toughness of character currently lining up for Emerald, they need only to take one look at the arm of Eagles' player Alex Finlayson.
"He fell during one of our earlier games and I thought that's it, he's out for the rest of it," Salogni explained.
"But he came back later with it all bandaged up and said coach I'm good to go... that's guts."
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