2017 QLD Premier Rugby Season Preview: Easts
After playing in the 2015 grand final, Easts struggled to find their best last season and finished seventh, three wins short of a finals appearance.
While a coaching reshuffle and a heavy injury toll could be blamed for the poor result, Anthony Connellan and the Tigers aren’t making excuses and are focussed on returning to the top half of the table this season.
Last year: 7th (5 wins, 30pts)
Ins: Logan Tibbets (Norths), Tim Smith (Wests), Navi Tiko (Armidale), David Yadsley (AFL), Tyrone Pritchard (rugby league).
Outs: Matt Brandon (retired)
Overview with Anthony Connellan:
“Last year was really disappointing, particularly after playing in a grand final in 2015. Our performances just weren’t good enough and there were a couple of reasons behind that but the good thing was the playing group and the staff didn’t try and make excuses, we just weren’t good enough. That has led to some good change heading into this season and that’s the most important thing,” he told Rugby News.
“We think our preseason has been one of our better ones in recent years, it’s been a really positive start. The club has built a gym on site and that has been great, it’s enabled us to be a bit more creative with our training and allowed us to maximise our time together.
“From colts right through the grades, all the teams have been in the gym and have been supported by our great S&C staff.
“The other positive is that we’ve improved our depth. We worked hard to retain most of the players from last year and that’s really important. The boys tend to enjoy their footy here so most of them hang around. We’ve picked up a few players as well which should help.
“We’ve got an interesting little run to start the season. We play Brothers first up, that will be a great game at home against the defending premiers, then we go bye, Norths, Sunnybank, bye.
“After five weeks, you’d love to be three from three, but against such quality opposition, if we won two of those games we’d be pretty happy. That would set us up nicely because then we play eight or nine games in a row to finish the season.”
Key areas of improvement:
“We had quite a few disappointing results last year, so we’ve focused massively on our physicality, particularly with our ball carry and tackle. When you compare us to Sunnybank, Brothers or Souths, we’re a pretty small side so we have to work hard on our physicality and toughness in the contact zone.
“Defence is a mindset. We’ve worked on our footwork and being aggressive through the line. We’ve also worked hard on our technique. The introduction of the gym has allowed us to improve our S&C program dramatically so I think that will help.”
Player/s to watch:
“As always, we’ll rely pretty heavily on our key experienced guys – Toby White, Kirwin Sanday and Tyrell Barker will all be important for us. They’ve all played NRC or higher now and they’re real stalwarts of the club and great leaders.
“Then we’ve got a nice bunch of up and coming players – Tom Milosevic will play in the backrow, he’ll have a big year. Our young halves are also looking good – Eli Pilz, Tim Smith and Logan Tibbets. We’ll be looking for them to steer us around the park.”
What are your hopes and expectations for the season?
“Obviously Easts is a very proud club so finals footy is something that is talked about a lot but this year we’ve made an effort to focus on the little things that will get us there rather than talking too much about the end result.”
“Last year was disappointing so we had a lot of key areas to work on and I think we’ve done so over summer. Ithink if we can nudge into that fourth spot, I think we’d be pretty positive going into a finals series.”
Who will your team play in the grand final?
“I think it’s going to be one of the tightest competitions that we’ve had in a while. For me, obviously Uni and Brothers will be right up there again, then I think Souths and Sunnybank will also be tough to beat. We played Souths on the weekend and they were very physical and quite dominant so I think they’ll be one to watch.”