2019 Shute Shield Season Preview: Warringah

Warringah couldn’t match a brilliant Sydney Uni side at North Sydney Oval late last year and fell one game short of claiming back to back Shute Shield titles. 

At the end of 2018 a number of senior players decided to call it a day and coach Darren Coleman moved to Gordon, opening the door for former Wallaby Mark Gerrard to take the reigns of a somewhat new look Warringah program in 2019.

Overview with Mark Gerrard:

“I’m really looking forward to taking over from DC (Darren Coleman) at Warringah this year. Obviously, he’s done a fantastic job and done a lot of the ground work, so I’m just looking to put my own twist on things to make sure the guys are continuing to play positive footy,” Rats coach Mark Gerrard told Rugby News. 

“I’ve realised pretty quickly that coaching a first grade Shute Shield side isn’t as easy as most people probably think it is. 

As a head coach, you’re constantly trying to build or maintain relationships throughout the club, then you’re managing the coaching group and the playing group, spending time on recruitment and retainment, you’re trying to find accomodation and work for players, mentoring. 

“There’s a lot that goes into it and I’m really enjoying that at the moment. Fortunately, I’ve got a lot of support throughout the club. 

“Looking back at last year’s grand final, we probably weren’t as tactically smart in that game as we could have been and we didn’t identify what Uni were going to throw at us. The round game against Manly that we lost was also a pretty similar story. 

“I want the boys to get used to travelling this year. It’s a cliche about people from the Northern Beaches, but it’s true. We need to get used to travelling and performing well away from home. 

“I won’t be playing this year. If I do, it’ll only be in lower grades to help with numbers if we need it. I want to focus on my role as a coach and certainly don’t want to get in the way at all. 

“We’ve obviously had a number of players finish up, then with DC leaving a few former Gordon players have gone with him, so it’s a different group but I wouldn’t say we’re rebuilding. We’re just creating a different dynamic within the playing group. 

“I still believe we’ll be very competitive but obviously it’s always an unknown at this point of the year. 

“The club is obviously in a pretty good place on the back of a few successful seasons so I just want to build on the really positive culture that has been created. You’re always going to have played come and go from the club, particularly when you’ve been successful but that’s just the nature of club rugby. 

“Overall, I’m really happy with the playing group that we’ve got and really looking forward to the season.”

2018: Grand finalists

Ins: Jack Hayson (Randwick), Charlie Tupou (Brisbane).

Outs: Luke Holmes (retired), Myles Dorrian (retired), Dave Feltscheer (retired), Sailosi Tagicakibau (retired), Mark Gerrard (retired), Seb Wileman (Queensland Reds), Mahe Vailanu (Gordon), Harry Rorke (Gordon), Emmanuel Meafou (France).

Key areas of improvement: 

“Contact is the big area for me. We were really good at creating space in contact, but I think we need to be far more efficient and more technical and detailed in our contact, in our ball carries and our one on one defence. 

“You can have the best defensive system in the world but if you can’t tackle, that all goes out the window. 

“It’s a pretty basic, core skill but that’s something that I’ll be really pushing this year.”

Player(s) to watch: 

“I’m really looking forward to watching a young guy by the name of George Noah. He’s come up from Melbourne and I think he’ll give the competition a real shake. He’s a second row/back rower who has come up looking for a challenge and he’s really hit the game running. 

“Charlie Tupou from Brisbane is an exciting, fast centre and I think he’ll have a big year. 

“I’m also really looking forward to watching Hamish Angus stay on the field more than he did last year and to see him really enjoy his rugby again.

“The other one to look out for is the old stalwart Sammy Ward. He’s still got plenty of go in him.”

Hopes and expectations for the season: 

“It’s tough to answer before the season starts but I think in terms of expectations, we want the players to make better decisions on the field and improving their individual games. 

“It’s going to be a tough year. Knowing what has happened over the last few years, I think it’s going to be even tougher and tighter this season. I think others have watched the growth of clubs like Warringah and Norths and they’ve had no choice but to strengthen their sides. 

“So I think we’ll see some bigger, more talented sides this year, we just need to make sure that we’re smarter.”

Who will Warringah play in the grand final this year? 

“I think it’ll be Easts or Souths. 

“I think they’ve got a really good player balance. I know there are a lot of other clubs that have had some really good players come on board, but I don’t think their rosters are as balanced as Easts and Souths and while they might not be everyone’s favourites, I think they’ll be right up there.”

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