2017 Shute Shield Season Preview: Randwick
There was plenty of excitement at Coogee Oval last year when Shannon Fraser’s young Randwick outfit led the competition at the halfway point of the season.
With former Wallabies Steven Hoiles and Adam Freier adding experience and a host of Super Rugby stars returning for a finals stint, the Galloping Greens had plenty of momentum at the back end of the year, but there season was cut short when they let a half time lead slip against Southern Districts in the opening week of the playoffs.
In 2017, Fraser’s young side are back, a year older and a whole lot hungrier for Shute Shield success.
Last year’s result: Semi-finalists
Ins: Tom Sexton (Force), Cam Betham (Eastern Suburbs), Jake Rakic (Canberra Vikings), Sam Figg (Sevens)
Outs: Ned Hanigan (Waratahs), Harrison Goddard (Rebels).
Overview with Shannon Fraser:
“2016 certainly ended in a way that we weren’t comfortable or happy with,” Fraser said.
“We were happy with the progression we made through the year and the improvement in not only our playing style and ability, but also in the culture at the club and within the playing group, I was really happy with that.
“But we weren’t happy with how we finished, which has kept us hungry for 2017 and that is what has been driving us through this preseason period.
“We started in the middle of November but it was a bit of a shotgun start in relation to guys coming back at different times after NRC or other representative programs. Our focus through the preseason has been on skill development so that we can play the style of football we want to play.
“The players have also worked really hard to create a strong physical foundation. Mick Stephens, our S&C coach has been great and we’ve seen some significant gains in some of the players.
“We’ve had a very young squad over the last two years but most of those guys now have 20-30 first grade caps, so with some of these guys going into their second or third seasons in grade, they’ll be more experienced and better prepared. We’ve also got some exciting young guys pushing through from our colts program and they’re coming from a winning environment, which is great.
“We’re not expecting to see too much of our Waratahs and Sevens guys. We’re really happy to watch them succeed at a higher level and if they do come back and play a few games, well then that’s a bonus for Randwick.
“But at the moment, we’re planning around the group of players that we’ve got training with us and we want to help them get to that next level as well.”
Key areas of improvement:
“We identified a few areas for improvement through our review at the end of last year.
“Obviously our set piece consistency is critical at the pointy end of the season, so we’ve worked on that.
“We need to look at our kick strategy and make sure it works for us. Generally speaking, most teams now are trying to play more running rugby. I think the NRC has changed that a little and now club sides are trying to emulate that so I think we’ll continue to see a lot more attacking rugby.
“We’re like all other sides, we want to play an exciting brand of footy, but you’ve got to be smart to do that. So we’ve worked hard on skill development and we’ll continue to work on that through the year.
“Outside of that, we’ve worked on game management. We’ve tried to increase our players understanding of the game so they can get a better sense of the tempo or flow of a match and make smart decisions at those crucial moments.”
Player/s to watch:
“To be perfectly honest with you, I’m more focussed on the performance of our entire group, rather than that of individuals.
“In saying that, there are players that I’m excited to watch play this year. Guys like David Vea at hooker, he’s had a fantastic off-season. Sunny Satuala has been working really hard.
“Sam Croke and Sam Figg are both looking really good and Latu Latunipulu will be exciting. He injured himself playing a trial with the Australian U20s last year and he’s returning from a serious knee injury but he is someone that I’m pretty excited about.
“Then we’ve got Mr. Football, Lachlan Anderson at fullback. He’s an exciting player who will only continue to get better with experience.
“Mitch Short and Andrew Deegan have now been together for a number of years and have been involved with the Waratahs, so I’m expecting big things from them as well.”
Expectations for the season:
“Looking forward, we want to be better than we were last year. Every team is going to improve from last year, everyone is working really hard to get better so we need to improve and perform at a higher level than our opposition.
“We’re hungry for success as a club and as a group and we need to be there at the pointy end of the season, we won’t except anything less.
“We need to make sure we continue to improve so that we are playing our best rugby when it matters.”
Who will your team play in the grand final?
“Norths are going to be a very tough opponent, they set a benchmark last year in relation to team performance, they’ll be up there at the end of the year.
“Sydney Uni and Warringah are two very strong clubs and I expect they’ll be right up there at the end of the year as well.
“There’s been a bit of a changing of the guard in relation to the coaches. West Harbour will be significantly better than they have been under Todd Louden, Billy Melrose back at Manly will be a positive for them and there have been coaching changes at Penrith, Easts and Gordon so I think everyone will be pushing pretty hard.
“All clubs are going to improve, we’ve just got to focus on ourselves and ensure we’re improving at a greater rate.”