2015 NRC Season Preview: North Harbour Rays


By Matt Findlay

North Harbour showed glimpses of brilliance in last year’s inaugural National Rugby Championship (NRC), but with equally as many disappointing lowlights the Rays are desperate to improve on last year’s seventh finish.

Predictably at this point – just days out from season’s beginning – Rays head coach Geoff Townsend said his side is looking for a finals spot in 2015.

“Of course, [the finals] is our aim this year,” Townsend said, succinctly.

“We’re more advanced than we were at this point last year which is positive.

“We were a game or so out (of the top four) last year, but we led into the second half of several games and lost them.

“We think we’ve got a few more experienced guys who can really steer us around the park, and hopefully get us home in those games this year.”

The Rays kick off their 2015 NRC campaign against the Sydney Stars at Manly Oval, looking to reverse the result from last year’s corresponding fixture.

The Rays lost to the Stars 49-40 in the latter’s only victory of the 2014 NRC season, in a game remembered more for North Harbour prop Mitch Lewis’ infamous ‘own try’ than the result.

With a strong squad named last week, including 11 players each from Manly and Warringah and six from both Northern Suburbs and Gordon, Townsend is confident he has the right mix to start the year with a win.

“We’ve got a good blend of players from the four clubs,” he explained.

“We’ve got four sides there … who are playing the game a bit differently to each other so we if can the blend of both right, and get the best of both I think we’re looking at a pretty good mix.

“Obviously we’ve got a few guys with Super Rugby experience in the Holmes boys (Luke and Josh) and Sam Lane, and plenty of experienced guys like Ed Gower and Cam Treloar who will be invaluable for us.”

Townsend said the Gordon and Norths contingent have been training for some time, while the Warringah players joined the squad after being knocked out of the Shute Shield finals.

The Manly Marlins contingent joined the squad this week, after losing the Shute Shield grand final in heartbreaking fashion to Eastwood.

“We had a couple of (training) sessions going back about a month ago, but we haven’t done a lot since,” Townsend said.

“We put some things in place at those original sessions, but there is definitely a lot of work to be done over the next two, three, four weeks to get all those details really drilled into the playing group.”

PLAYER TO WATCH: Sam Ward (No.8, back-row)

With a full NRC season, another successful Shute Shield campaign and more time in the Melbourne Rebels’ train-on squad under his belt, blockbuster Rays No.8 Sam Ward is set to explode in 2015.

Rays coach Geoff Townsend is hoping the 110kg wrecking ball can not just build on his stellar form from last year – which included a rare hat-trick against the Perth Spirit – he wants to him go to another level.

“I think if he can add a bit more aggression into his defence to go with his carry he could pretty much be the complete package,” Williams said.

“Last year he brought us a lot of go forward … and was one of the guys who consistently week-to-week brought us a strong carry and got us over the advantage line.”


Luke Holmes (Warringah, captain), Scott Sio (Wallabies, Brumbies, Northern Suburbs), Josh Holmes (Warringah), Mitch Lewis (Manly), James Hilterbrand (Manly), Sam Ward (Warringah), Ed Gower (Manly), Cameron Treloar (Warringah), Mark Johnson (Gordon), Harry Bergelin (Manly), Jack Dempsey (Gordon), Sam Lane (Manly), Reece Hodge (Manly), Michael Adams (Warringah), Dave Feltscheer (Warringah), Tom Hill (Eastwood), Ruairidh Wilson (Gordon), Harry Rorke (Gordon), Lawrence Hunting (Northern Suburbs), Boyd Killingworth (Warringah), Hamish Angus (Warringah), Richard Hooper (Manly), Alex Northam (Manly), Rory O’Connor (Warringah), Tim Donlan (Manly), Tyson Davis (Warringah), Richard Woolf (Northern Suburbs), John Porch (Northern Suburbs), Dennis Pili-Gaitau (Manly), John Fakai (Manly), James Wilkinson (Gordon), Tyson Davis (Warringah), Nick Palmer (Northern Suburbs), Sione Ala (Gordon), Tim Duschene (Northern Suburbs).


ROUND 1: Saturday, August 22: vs Sydney Stars; Manly Oval, Manly; 3pm

ROUND 2: Saturday, August 29: vs Perth Spirit; McGillivray Fields, UWA Park; 3.30pm

ROUND 3: Thursday, September 3: vs Melbourne Rising; Manly Oval, Manly; 7.30pm

ROUND 4: Thursday, September 10: vs Brisbane City; Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane; 7.30pm


ROUND 6: Saturday, September 26: vs UC Vikings; Pittwater Rugby Park, Sydney; 3pm

ROUND 7: Thursday, October 1: vs Greater Sydney Rams; Pirtek Stadium, Sydney; 7.30pm

ROUND 8: Saturday, October 10: vs Queensland Country; Pittwater Rugby Park, Sydney; 3pm

ROUND 9: Saturday, October 17: vs NSW Country Eagles; Ann Ashwood Park, Bathurst; 4pm

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