2015 NRC Season Preview: Greater Sydney Rams
By Matt Findlay
Injury riddled and hanging on by a thread, a 58-40 final round loss to Melbourne Rising forced the Greater Sydney Rams to swallow the bitter pill of finishing fifth last season, one spot and one point outside the National Rugby Championship (NRC) top four.
As a result, Rams head coach Jim Williams said his side’s long-term goal for the 2015 season is simple – go one better, and make the finals.
Anything after that, obviously including the coveted title, would be a bonus.
But, for the moment, the Rams’ focus is firmly on round one against the NSW Country Eagles – 2014 semi-finalists – on Saturday.
“[A title] is the end goal, definitely,” he said.
“But [right now] it’s not so much about position … it’s about getting the guys together and playing well as a squad, and getting them confident in each other and what they’re doing.
“[If that happens] I’m certain we can start pushing to get that kind of result towards the end of the season.”
Southern Districts gun Jed Holloway will skipper the side, with the Rebels providing another 10 players to the Greater Sydney squad, while other catchment clubs Eastwood, West Harbour and Parramatta have provided six, four and three respectively.
Melbourne Rebels 2016 recruit Siliva Siliva joins the squad, with Norths centre Jordy Heyer and Manly fullback BJ Hartmann both included as well.
“It’s been a big factor for us in trying to pick from the catchment area and also picking guys who want to be involved as well,” Williams explained.
“They’re motivated, and it’s a good bunch of guys who are willing to learn and very enthusiastic about what they want to do and they’re two integral parts of being successful.”
The Rams host the Eagles at Merrylands Park on Saturday on the back of, much like most of the other franchises, a “disrupted” preparation.
“From a cohesion point of view it’s been a little bit disrupted in terms of having people involved in finals all the way up until last weekend,” Williams explained.
“As the week [has progressed] the excitement levels [have risen], it’s been good to get the guys in it’s just a matter of working hard toward the weekend now.
“From our perspective it’s just about ourselves, you take things from what [NSW Country] did last year but realistically they’re a different side.
“It’s just been about getting some clarity about what we do and where we do it on the field.”
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jai Ayoub (five-eighth)
If there was one player to watch in the NRC after the conclusion of the Shute Shield, it’s Eastwood playmaker Jai Ayoub.
Fresh off slotting the match-winning drop-goal in last weekend’s 15-12, grand final victory over Manly, Ayoub’s confidence is sky-high and when given the chance, Williams said the classy pivot is capable of igniting the Rams in attack.
“He’s got the runs behind him in the way he’s done things, and obviously his footy has been excellent this year,” Williams said.
“But it is a bit early in the piece for me to really be pointing out players.”
Benn Robinson (Eastwood), Cameron Orr (West Harbour), Jed Gillespie (Eastwood), Cameron Betham (Southern Districts), Samuel Needs (Eastwood), Matt Gibbon (Southern Districts), Hugh Roach (Eastwood), Siliva Siliva (Melbourne Rebels), Evan Olmstead (Parramatta), Filimore Tufui (Southern Districts), Jed Holloway (Southern Districts, captain), Kelly Meafua (West Harbour), Marcus Carbone (Southern Districts), Jonathan Hayes (Southern Districts), Cohen Masson (West Harbour), Kaleb Rech (Parramatta), Dewet Roos (Southern Districts), Jai Ayoub (Eastwood), Rohan Saifoloi (Southern Districts), Paul Asquith (Southern Districts), Denny Godinet (Southern Districts), Michael McDougall (Eastwood), Jordan Heyer (Northern Suburbs), Henry Seavula (West Harbour), Larry Hermens (Parramatta), BJ Hartmann (Manly), Brad Curtis (Eastwood), Afa Pakalani (Southern Districts).
ROUND 1: Saturday, August 22: vs NSW Country Eagles; Merrylands RSL Park, Sydney; 2pm.
ROUND 2: BYE
ROUND 3: Saturday, September 5: vs UC Vikings; Viking Park Canberra; 2pm.
ROUND 4: Saturday, September 12: vs Queensland Country; Foreshaw Park, Sydney; 3pm.
ROUND 5: Saturday, September 19: vs Melbourne Rising; La Trobe City Stadium, Morwell; 2pm.
ROUND 6: Sunday, September 27: vs Sydney Stars; Leichhardt Oval, Sydney; 3pm
ROUND 7: Thursday, Ocotber 1; vs North Harbour Rays; Pirtek Stadium, Sydney; 7.30pm
ROUND 8: Saturday, October 10; vs Perth Spirit; Concord Oval, Sydney; 3pm
ROUND 9: Saturday, October 17: vs Brisbane City, Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane; 3.30pm.