Why they play for the Buccs, and why they won't give up
FOOTBALL: It would be very easy for Wide Bay Buccaneers' senior players to walk away.
The senior men's team is win-less in its first Football Queensland Premier League season, and having conceded 107 goals in 18 games. The under-20s have drawn one and lost 17 games, allowing 112 goals in the process.
On average, the senior men's team scores less than a goal per game and allows almost six.
Wide Bay holds the worst defensive and win-loss record in any state league in Australia. Joondalup United is the closest in that regard, having won one and drawn two of its 20 NPL Western Australia games this season, scoring 17 and conceding 74 while doing so.
So why do they do it? Why risk a personal passion for football for what numerous "keyboard warriors” deem to be a worthless cause?
Captain Jacob Chapman, who joined the club after spending his junior career at Sunbury, spoke of the future, how the Buccaneers can become a club for whom talented juniors can play and further their footballing journey without having to leave the region.
"The big picture is this is a new step forward for the region, and we try to push that. Our juniors are looking good for our club, especially the under-13s and U15s,” he said.
"It's building a club in the community that junior players can look towards and want to play for, so they can move up through the ranks and don't have to move away.”
Several players have left the club - visa player Ben Brookfield left for Dee Why in New South Wales while Matt Twyford and Jason McEwan both returned to their Bundaberg club teams - while many people bag the Buccaneers and its players on social media when results are posted each week.
Chapman admitted the comments were disappointing to read, but said he and his committed teammates believed in the club's future.
"It is disappointing to see people give up on the club. The first year, we knew it would be hard. We've played against each other for so long and hated each other for so long.
"It's disappointing to see people move away from the club and give up on the dream, but the dream is always there for the ones that stay.”
When Londoner Ben Wilks joined the club he spoke of helping the Buccaneers secure promotion to the NPL. The reality is very different - Wide Bay is guaranteed the wooden spoon unless they win five of their six remaining games - but he still believes in the club.
Wilks isn't overly concerned about players who have left - he says football is a business - but he is committed to finishing the year strong.
"It means a lot. As the only visa player I feel I have a lot on my shoulders to help the players and build something, to try and get . It's nice to be part of a team trying to build something. Hopefully in five, 10, 15 years I can look back and say I played a part in that.
"It's upsetting, it's frustrating, but I've played in numerous countries, numerous leagues, but it's part and parcel with the game. It's a business.”
Sam Meyer viewed the FQPL as a way to push himself to a higher level of the game, and despite the ridiculous amount of travel - the Bundaberg-based midfielder can spend about 10 hours on the Bruce Highway for an away game - he is dedicated to pushing the future of the side regardless of what negative comments some people make.
"I wanted to play at a higher level. I've pushed myself to play as high as I can and improve my play. It's been a tough season with people pulling out and all of the travel, but it's been good to play,” Meyer said.
"We need to keep pushing forward. Hopefully we can keep most of us together and get a few signings in the off-season and we can build.
"It's a lot of hard work, and people don't realise how much commitment there is to do it.
"People don't realise what goes into making it happen. There will always be people who say that so we just have to put it behind us.”
Former KSS Jets captain John Cullen said he joined for the love of the game, as well as the challenge of playing in the state's second tier.
"We want to stay together through pre-season and onto next year. We need to stay strong and work together, develop for the future,” he said.
"We want to play at this level. It means a lot to us boys, but it is hard losing games week in, week out.
"It is heartbreaking to see those comments. We want to be here for the right reasons, but there's always that negative feel you get on social media when the scores come out.”
Brad Mitchell is not only in it for the challenge, but to help develop a clearer pathway for Wide Bay's junior players. He said he tried to ignore negative comments, and issued his own challenge to those who denigrate the club every week.
"You don't pay too much attention to the comments. It's disappointing to see local people saying what they're saying.
"They're just a bunch of keyboard warriors, you don't see them half the time. If they think they're that good they can join us next year.”
Wide Bay face Souths United at Bundaberg's Martens Oval today. Kick-off at 5pm.