2019 Shute Shield Season Review: Eastern Suburbs
Easts were the talk of the town over summer and picked by many during preseason as competition favourites this year.
They started in style, beating the defending premiers Sydney Uni in round one, but things began to unravel from that point on.
While they improved throughout the season and featured in the finals again, Pauli Taumoepeau’s side have some soul searching to do in the coming months.
We caught up with the Easts’ coach to find out why?
Overview with Pauli Taumoepeau:
“It wasn’t a good year for us,” Taumoepeau said.
“To bow out in the first week of the finals again, it was really disappointing. We ended up finishing in almost an identical spot to 2018 so it was disappointing not to improve on that.
“There were some key learnings, especially at the start of the year but to sum it up, we weren’t happy.
“We finished the year quite well and that was well documented but our start to the season hurt us. We lost three games in a row early in the year and you can’t really afford to do that.
“I think we were doing all the rugby things well and I’m not sure if this is a valid excuse or not but we just had a lot of new guys to the team in key positions. Our captain was new, Charlie Gamble was new, then the Tahs were only with us for one session a week, we just weren’t together enough to make things gel.
“In round one against Uni, we got lucky with a few cross field kicks but then things started to fall apart in the games after that.
“When we got everyone together towards the end of the year though, we were able to get that roll on.
“I guess it’s more a learning for me than it is for the players and I’ve got to take responsibility for not getting the team to gel. I think I’d change how I structured the start of the season and how I introduced new players to the system.
“The last 15 minutes in our loss to Randwick on Anzac Day summed up our start to the year. Guys didn’t know what they are doing and they just looked lost. We were only seven points behind at that stage but we looked completely out of sorts, guys were standing still and there was no chat at all.
“On the other end of the scale, we came back from 17 points down and scored to beat Gordon after the bell with 14 men. That was probably the best rugby we played all year and highlighted the difference between our best and worst this season.
“I think the reason I’m so disappointed with the year and I’m not just saying this to keep people happy but the reason I’m so upset is because I look at the group we’ve got and it’s more than enough.
“We’ve got to do a few things differently but I know we can and I know we finished a long way short of where we should have this year.”
Which of your non contracted players deserves to go on and play higher honours?
“Jack Grant. His game really evolved this year and a lot of people don’t realise that he’s only been playing halfback for a few years now and has developed really quickly.
“He troubles the defence every week and as the season went on he got better at picking his moments. In the past, he had a tendency to get a little bit excited but I think now he has a better understanding of when to inject himself.
“He’s involved in the NRC with the Eagles and hopefully with another voice in his ear in Rob Taylor, who’s one of the best coaches going around, that he might learn a few things and keep going.”
What needs to happen at Easts between now and round one next year?
“We’ve got to get better at scrum time, that’s the main thing,” Taumoepeau said.
“We’ll tinker with our attack because you can’t just keep doing the same thing. We won’t change our principles but we’ll add a few things.
“But set piece is the main one. When Rob Taylor got interviewed during the grand final he coined a phrase that I’d never heard before and that was “no scrum, no win” and it’s so true.
“We’ve got to have a scrum and we’ve got to start developing our guys now for next season. We probably only got into scrum work in February this year but it’s got to be a 12 month thing to compete with the best.”
Bold prediction for 2020:
“Unfortunately, I think it’s going to be tighter again. I was talking to a couple of other Shute Shield coaches and we all agreed.
“We don’t know how or why because there’s only a certain player pool and it doesn’t look like there will be a lot of jumping around, but it seems like it’s going to be just as tough next year.
“The six teams from the finals this year will be back, then you’ve got Gordon and Randwick, Souths with Todd Louden, he’s been able to turn clubs around quickly before, Guddo (Mark Gudmunson) at Wests, they’ll be better again.
“If I had to pick a bold prediction, it’d be that one team that missed out on the top six this year will jump up into the finals next year.
“Hopefully only one, we don’t want too many jumping up.”