2019 QLD Premier Rugby Season Preview: Norths

2018 didn’t quite go to plan for Norths, but with new head coach Luke Oxford in charge at Shaw Rd there looks to be a different feel about the club in 2019.

Overview with Luke Oxford:

“Norths is a club with a lot of potential. It’s got a huge catchment area and I think the majority of the guys that are coming to the club have plenty of potential, which is exciting,” Oxford told Rugby News.

“I live in the area and I’ve coached one of the local high schools, so I think that will help me in my first year. I came down and helped with skills last year and I know the club reasonably well so I’m really excited to get the opportunity to coach Premier grade. 

“In terms of Norths’ attack, I think the club has done quite well over the past few years and when they’ve been on, they’ve been hard to stop. Unfortunately, they’ve just leaked too many points in the past and having to spoken to guys throughout the grades, most of the players have a similar view. 

“I’d like to see guys playing in the lower grades start to put pressure on the players in our top 30. If we can create competition for spots in the higher grades, everyones performance will improve across the club. 

“My first priority was to retain the majority of our players from last year and we’ve had about 95% of last year’s group return, which is really positive. 

“At the end of the day, it comes down to attitude and application and we’ve spent a lot of time working on our mindset during preseason. In the past, the guys have defined failure as a lack of success, but I’ve tried to stress that failure is an opportunity to learn and get better. 

“If you look at our trial form, we’ve been fairly consistent across the grades. In first grade we started with some tough losses but then we had a good win in our last trial, so that has filled the club with confidence. 

“Everything changes when you start playing for points, but I feel like we’re in a good place at the moment.”

Ins: Matt McGahan (Queensland Reds. 

Outs: Kane Douglas (France), Reece Hewat (France), Nick Jooste (Western Force).

Key Areas of Improvement: 

“Defence has been an issue and we’ve spent a lot of time implementing systems and structures across the grades so that all of our players know how to defend and when guys move up the grades, they have confidence that they can play their role because the terminology and the structures are all the same,” Oxford said.

“We’ve also worked on our catch pass skills. I think that’s getting more and more critical with the way the modern game is played these days.

“Set piece is the other area that we’ve struggled, so we’ve spent plenty of time working with our tight five so they have all the knowledge they need to succeed at this level and beyond.”

Player(s) to watch: 

“Tonga Mafu is a prop with a lot of ability. He won the Barker Medal in 2017 and played NRC but unfortunately he had a knee reconstruction last year. He’s come back to the club and is really keen to rip in. 

“Having a player of that quality up front is a huge advantage and I think he’s in for a big year.”

Hopes and expectations for the season: 

“We’re just looking to take things week by week at this stage and the big thing we’re driving into the boys is that we improve every time we play. 

“We want to really dissect each performance and be quite hard on ourselves and I think that will make the guys more accountable and improve our preparation for each match. 

“In the past, clubs have looked at Norths as a side at the bottom of the ladder but if we’re ruthless in our preparation we can change that. 

“We’re a family club and we want everyone on and off the field to be proud of our performances every week. That starts with the guys in the top grades setting a really good example for the rest of our community and I think we’ll see that this year. 

“That’s the holistic goal but I think the first step is to improve on last year’s performance and go from there.”

Who will Norths play in the grand final? 

“I’d probably have to say Souths at this stage. They have so much firepower out wide and a very big forward pack. They play an up tempo game with high energy and if you make a mistake, they’ll pounce and make you pay. 

“Jeeps will also be right up there. Everyone knows what they are all about as a club and I think they’ll show that again this year. 

“It’s pretty tough to split those two at the moment.”

Photo: QRU Media