2017 Shute Shield Season Preview: West Harbour
After winning four of their first six matches in 2016, West Harbour added just two more wins in their final 12 games last year and finished the season in ninth, but lost seven matches by seven points or less to sides above them on the ladder.
In 2017, former Waratahs and Rebels assistant coach Todd Louden has taken charge at Concord Oval and will lead a talented playing group focussed on improving their results across all grades this year.
Last year: 9th (6 wins, 33pts)
Ins: Kelly Meafua (returning), Tom Hikila (France), James Turner (colts), Phil Bradford (NSW U20s), Andrew Tuala (Western Sydney Rams).
Outs: David Minute (rugby league)
Overview with Todd Louden:
“We’re probably not where we need to be at the moment but I think we’ll build through the season, that’s the plan. There is a lot to do, but we’re confident we’ll get there,” Louden told Rugby News.
“We started pre-season quite early and changed the way we worked on our conditioning by focusing on repeat maximal efforts. We also worked really hard on certain skills and on the laws of the game.
“We’re generally getting around 150 to each session, that’s grade and colts and we’ve trained as one squad the entire time. That’s part of the reason why I think we’re a little bit behind, but as a club I think we’re creating great depth and that will benefit us in the long run.
“We’ve looked at our results over the past decade as individual teams and as a club and we’ve progressively declined over that period. On the back of that, the players decided that the club championship was the major focus this year and that meant that the entire club needed to be working hard. The playing group is adamant that they want to improve their club championship results quite drastically and they realise that they’re all going to have to work really hard to do that.
“We were one of the most penalised teams last year, so we need to improve our discipline. We also lost a lot of games by a handful of points last year and that is something we need to change.
“To do that, we need to keep our players on the field so we’ve improved our medical and performance programs to ensure that our players are fit and healthy.
“Attitude is another focus. We’ve told the players that if they get their attitudes right on and off the field, then the coaching staff will take responsibility for the results.
“We’ve had a real focus on bringing local players back to the club or recruiting guys with links to the club. We’re focused on developing our depth and our frameworks throughout the entire club.
“That’s going to take time, so we might not win four of our first six games. I don’t have any expectations in that regard but I do expect us to produce a more consistent performance each week and we’ll continue to build and get better so that we’re really hitting our straps mid season. In saying that, we want to win every game we play.”
Key areas of improvement:
“Consistency. It sounds funny, but that’s the major focus for us. We’ve worked hard on our set piece, our lineout and scrum. Rod Cutler is coaching the forwards and he’s brought a lot of knowledge there. Ben Evans has been working on our scrum as well.
“We’re also having a good look at our kicking game.”
Player/s to watch:
“We’ve got Andrew Tuala up front, he’s on a mission at the moment. Kelly Meafua can be very destructive. Wayne Ngaluafe was there last year and I think he’ll be much better in his second year in the competition. He also represented Tonga last year. I also think Tayler Adams will have a good year.
“Lolo Funaki has come from rugby league and I’ve got big wraps on him. He’s picking up the game quite quickly and he hits defensively like a freight train. Ben Cotton is also looking really good.”
Hopes/expectations for the season:
“I’m coaching to the targets that the playing group has set so we’re aiming for a vast improvement in the club championship, that’ll be a successful year.
“Obviously first grade spearheads the points in the club championship so they’re going to have to be contributing to that. We want to make finals and then from there, anything is possible.”
Who will your team play in the grand final?
“I’d like to play Uni in a grand final. I’ve got some close links with the club and I have a lot of respect for them and you always like to play and beat the benchmark and that has been Uni over the last decade.
“To be perfectly honest, I think this year will be the hardest, tightest competition in the history of the Shute Shield. I honestly think any team will be able to beat any other side on their day and I think it’ll come down to one competition point to determine who makes the finals.
“It won’t be one-way traffic. I don’t think we’ll see a team go on a winning streak like Norths did last year, I think everyone will have a bit of an up and down tournament.
“So to be honest, I have no idea who the team to beat is, I think it’ll be super tight and I’m really looking forward to it, it’s great for the competition.”