2015 NRC Season Preview: Sydney Stars

Stars-background

By Matt Findlay

While the Sydney Stars’ focus is firmly on development, and providing opportunities, in the 2015 National Rugby Championship, head coach Peter Playford said in no uncertain terms, results still matter.

They have to; the Stars came last in 2014’s inaugural tournament, only winning one game from eight starts.

But, in Playford’s eyes, development and results go hand-in-hand.

“[Development] is the NRC mantra,” he said.

“But my thing is, the sum of all parts will lead to results.

“As I’ve said in previous interviews, whilst the results didn’t go our way last year and we came at the bottom end of the ladder, we managed to get both coaches signed up to the Waratahs, plus about four or five players.

“That’s what the Stars really stands for, helping these young guys get a chance. At the end of the day it’s about helping build NSW rugby and in turn, Australian rugby.

“My thing is about getting players to embrace [that concept of development]. If we can get them to do that, they’ll [earn results] for us.”

The Stars squad was released on Monday – the last of all the franchises – and includes several big names to, potentially, lead the side’s march up the ladder.

Jeremy Tilse, Dave Dennis, Pat McCutcheon, Tom Carter, James Hanson and Tom Kingston have all been named, and will be joined by a host of young guns – including 18-year-old Scots College halfback Theo Strang, who hasn’t even finished his HSC yet.

“I’m happy with the squad we’ve put together, it’s a good mix of young guys, uncontracted players and contracted guys,” Playford, who will be joined on the Stars coaching staff by Tim Davidson, David Lyons and Dan Parks, said.

“In those terms we’re happy with the building blocks we have here.”

The Stars kick-off their season on Saturday against the North Harbour Rays, and despite preparation so limited his side only really started training properly on Monday night, Playford said the game looms as a great opportunity to start the year off with a win.

“We’ve been very mindful the focus needed to be on the club rugby season before rolling into the NRC,” Playford said.

“We [had] our first full session on [Monday night] … but we’re rolling in with a similar preparation to the Rays I think.

“Our first 10 days of the tournament is the Rays and then Queensland Country, after that we’ll have some more time to prepare.

“We have a clear idea of how we want to play in those first couple of games, and then we’ll look at changing a few things.

“Everyone can attack, they’ve been doing that since they were 6 in the backyard.

“It’s defence, and transitional defence which is the concern for all NRC teams.”

PLAYER TO WATCH: Tom Kingston (centre)

Still on the comeback trail after a desperately frustrating period following his departure from the NSW Waratahs to the Melbourne Rebels, Kingston revelled in his return to the paddock in this year’s Shute Shield.

Considering he’s still only 24, but with experience well beyond his years both in life and rugby, Playford said the 2015 NRC has the potential to be an incredible springboard for Kingston.

“We’ve got a really exciting backline, [Kingston will link with]guys like Jake Gordon, Angus Roberts, Henry Clunies-Ross and Tom Carter,” Playford said.

“This is a really big tournament for [Kingston].”

SQUAD:

Jeremy Tilse, Matt Sandell, Tolu Latu, Tom Coolican, James Hanson, Tom Robertson, Patrick Ryan, Aldy King, Al Ryan, Andrew Leota, Matt Philip, Rohan O’Regan, Tipiloma Kaveninga, David Dennis, Ofa Finau, David Hickey, Jake Wainwright, Declan Moore, Patrick McCutcheon, Mitchell Whiteley, Will Skelton, Jake Gordon, Richard Draper, Angus Roberts, Ben Hughes, Jordan McGregor, Henry Clunies-Ross, John Hale, Tom Carter, Andrew Robinson, Jim Stewart, Harry Jones, Christian Yassmin, Tom Kingston, Guy Porter, Theo Strang, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Israel Folau

FIXTURES:

ROUND 1: Saturday, August 22: vs North Harbour Rays; Manly Oval, Manly; 3pm

ROUND 2: Thursday, August 27: vs Queensland Country; Leichhardt Oval, Sydney; 7.30pm

ROUND 3: Saturday, September 5: vs Perth Spirit; Leichhardt Oval, Sydney; 3pm

ROUND 4: Saturday, September 12: vs NSW Country Eagles; Chillingworth Oval, Tamworth; 3pm

ROUND 5: Thursday, September 17: vs UC Vikings; Viking Park, Canberra; 7.30pm

ROUND 6: Sunday, September 27: vs Greater Sydney Rams; Leichhardt Oval, Sydney; 3pm

ROUND 7: Friday, October 2: vs Brisbane City; Leichhardt Oval, Sydney; 7.30pm

ROUND 8: BYE

ROUND 9: Sunday, October 18: vs Melbourne Rising; Frankston Oval, Victoria; 1.30pm