2019 Shute Shield Season Preview: Gordon
2018 was a year of extremes for Gordon. One of Sydney’s most famous and illustrious rugby clubs, Gordon’s colts program featured in all three colts grand finals while their first grade side finished last.
Following a number of disappointing seasons, the Highlanders have recruited Shute Shield winning coach Darren Coleman and a number of impressive names in an attempt to turn their grade fortunes around.
While time will tell if those attempts will be fruitful, there’s certainly a different feel to things at Chatswood Oval in 2019.
Overview with Darren Coleman:
“I’m really enjoying my time at Gordon. Rugby people are the same the world over really, same animal, different skin. Like every club I’ve been at, there are a lot of great people and one of the things that excited me and led my to Gordon was the challenge,” Coleman said.
“It’s a club with a really rich history and a lot of potential and I really enjoy the challenge of trying to get football clubs and programs moving in the right direction and so far it’s been great.
“The new president Matt Glascott is a really motivated and proactive guy. We’ve reengaged with a number of club legends, some of them are involved in the coaching staff and overall the preseason has been great.
“We’ve had good numbers, our Sevens program went well and we’ve gone alright on the recruitment and retention front. We haven’t won any football games yet, but we’re comfortable that we’ll be competitive in grade this year.
“If you look at the club last year, it was kind of in two parts. The colts had an incredible season, it’s pretty rare that you play in three colts grand finals. The strategy was for those colts to push into grade but potentially the club didn’t put enough time and resources into the grade side of things and there wasn’t a whole lot for those good colts to aspire to.
“Now we’d like to think we’re servicing the club from both ends with the colts pushing through into a strong grade program.
“We started by looking at the culture of the club and the expectations that are needed to be successful in the Shute Shield so we’ve worked a lot on that. We’ve got a lot of new coaches, I think 10 of our 12 coaches are new to the club this year, so that will bring some fresh energy and some fresh ideas.
“We’ve also worked really hard from a strength and conditioning perspective. We’ve got a great partnership with an S&C company called Athlete’s Authority, we’ve got a great association with our sponsor Fitness First and we’ve really ramped up our medical program to increase the overall professionalism.
“I don’t think anyone would be turning up if they didn’t want to turn things around. No one plays to lose so I think we’ve all got the same goal at Gordon. Coaches generally talk about a three year plan to try and buy themselves a three year contract but we want success and we want to get to it pretty quickly.
“Whether we can go from last to first in one year, that might be a stretch but we want to be competitive and we want to challenging and beating the best teams in the competition.”
Ins: Jake Abel (Canberra), Charlie Abel (Manly), Mahe Vailanu (Warringah), Harry Rorke (Warringah), Jaline Graham (Parramatta).
Outs: Caleb Aparehama (Spain), Leigh Hughes (New Zealand), Sam Leeming (England), Tobias Gukibau (retired), Winston Wilson (retired).
Key areas of improvement:
“Based on the results from last year, there’s obviously a lot we need to improve but the main thing I want to instil is a no quit attitude. If you look at some of the scores from last season, it’s hard not to think that guys threw in the towel when the score lines really blew out,” Coleman said.
“We’ve been talking a lot about “NQ” or no quit and working on a lot of drills under fatigue and working in situations that are uncomfortable or where they can’t win but they’re not allowed to quit.
“This year, we want to improve our professionalism and our attitude so that we’ve got a chance to win every match we play in.”
Player(s) to watch:
“I’ve been really excited by two of our colts graduates Hugh Margin and Milan Basson. They both played in the losing colts grand final team last year and they are both starting in first grade in our trial tomorrow which is great to see.
“They are exactly what we want out of Gordon. Good local juniors that came through the colts system and pushed into grade after a really strong off season. Down the track, we’d like to have a good percentage of our players in that mould.
“I’m also really excited to see Jake Abel. He was the player of the year in the Canberra competition last year and he’s the brother of Robbie and Charlie Abel. He’s just a natural footballer and he’s a strong, physical No.9 so I’m excited to see what he can do.”
Hopes and expectations for the season:
“We want to win more games than we lose this year and still be playing in August when the playoffs roll around,” Coleman said.
“Before that though, we want to be competitive and give ourselves a chance to win every match we play in.”
Who will Gordon play in the grand final?
“Early on I thought Easts and I still do. They’ll have another year under their belt with Pauli and they’ve picked up a few more good players.
“After seeing who Eastwood have picked up though, I think they’ll be very hard to beat.
“They’ve always had a strong forward pack, but if they can get their best seven backs on the field at the same time, they’ll take some handling.
“Then obviously Sydney Uni, they’ll be there again.”