2018 Shute Shield Season Review: Sydney Uni

It was the perfect ending to a season that not many saw coming – Sydney Uni’s comprehensive 45-12 grand final victory over Warringah at picturesque North Sydney Oval.

Uni’s charge to the title after not making the finals in 2017 was testament to the coaching of Rob Taylor and the development system that have served the club so well for more than a decade.

Still there was a stretch in 2018 where they lost three on the trot but in there end it all came together.

Here’s what coach Taylor had to say about their 2018 season:

With hindsight, how do you look back on the season? 
You sometimes think ‘did that actually happen?’ I couldn’t be more pleased for the club from a First Grade perspective. The best part was seeing the rest of the Club and our supporters getting vocal in the stands at North Sydney Oval, we were just pleased to put in a performance they could be proud of. We were also very proud that 21 of the 23 players who played in the Grand Final all came through our Colts program.

You started the season well, what can you put that down to? 
We were able to build from some solid momentum and belief in our game during pre-season and from the first few competition games. We had a few lessons in the middle of the season where we lost three games on the trot but they were all very close (losses by three points twice and one by two points) but they were all valuable lessons for the team.

Was there a match or two that defined your season? 
West Harbour in Round Three gave us a lot of confidence in the type of game we wanted to play. The loss at Manly Oval I thought was a significant lesson after we seemed to have the game under control with a dominant scrum but we still lost. It underlined the need to finish off opportunities.

What did you do well this year?
From a statistical point of view we had the best attack and the best defence in the competition. The scrum was a real platform throughout the whole year (well coached by Joe Horn-Smith) and from those things we were able to apply a hell of a lot of pressure on other teams.

What didn’t you do well this year? 
We’d probably have liked to have made more tackles and have more consistency in all areas.

Overall, how did the club fare this season in all grades etc? 
Our primary goal was to win the Club Championship, we achieved that with one round to spare. We were the only Club that  qualified all seven teams into semi-finals but unfortunately only First Grade could got into a Grand Final.

Standout players:
It’s a hard question, as I would like to name the whole team. Jake Gordon’s performances at the back end of the season were exceptional while Matt Sandell was our Mr Consistent throughout the season. Will McDonnell was named the rookie of the year at the Catchpole Medal dinner. The team was extremely well led by Rohan O’Regan.

Which non contracted player deserves to play at a higher level? 
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Anyone in that grand final side has the talent to play at the next level but they need to do more work to really earn it, someone like Chris Talakai is a bit of a diamond in the rough. He’s a very strong scrummaging tight-head and an intelligent footballer so watch this space.

What does your club need to do between now and round one next year? 
It’s all about setting the bar higher and going after it.

Bold prediction for 2019:
This is a tough question really because there has been so much movement in the coaching ranks. It’s going to be super tight and it’s going to be more of a matter of who is going to miss out.

Played: 18
Won: 14
Drawn: 0
Lost: 4
Bonus points: 20 (first)
Points differential: +393 (first)
Finished: First
Finals campaign: W 21-13 v Eastern Suburbs (Week One Qualifying Final), W 41-3 v Manly (Grand Final Qualifier), W 45-12 v Warringah (Grand Final)

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