2022 Shute Shield Season Review: Southern Districts

Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Southern Districts on and off the field in 2022. 

Halfway through the season, former first grade coach Matt Barr replaced Todd Louden at Forshaw   and went about helping his side rediscover their DNA. 

Barr will stay on as Director of Rugby moving forward and seems optimistic about the Rebels future, despite an extremely tough 2022 season. 

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Overview with Matt Barr: 

“I can only really speak about the second half of the season after I got back involved but it was certainly a disappointing year. Finishing at the bottom is not something that sits well with us,” Barr told Rugby News. 

“At the same time though, I was really proud of both the players and the staff for the commitment they showed to fight all the way through such a tough season. 

“When you look at the results, we weren’t that far off a handful of wins in the back half of the season and we were in the contest for the majority of those games. 

“I’m proud of the leadership and the resilience that those players and staff that chose to stay on showed. 

“There seems to be a lot more positivity around the club now compared to a few months ago. The players seem to be enjoying rugby and the environment again. 

“I don’t want to talk in past tense too much but is does feel like it’s a bit of a new beginning with a fresh approach to things and I think the players can see that. 

“Towards the end of the season, the players were playing with more confidence and freedom and I think they really enjoyed having more control over the rugby they were playing. 

“The club has recently appointed Jason Brewer as head coach. He’s a fantastic addition and has played and coached in the Shute Shield before. He knows what it’s all about. 

“He’s also worked a lot in coach education in previous roles with Rugby Australia and he’s coached internationally with Fiji and overseas in Japan. 

“He’s jumped straight in and wants to be involved with the whole rugby program from our ADS junior development program, through colts and into grade.”

What is the focus at Souths between now and round one next year? 

“As I mentioned earlier, we’re embracing a fresh start at the club because we’ve got a lot of good people here.

“We need to get back to our DNA though and rediscover what we were known for as a club. 

“We were a hard nosed, blue collar, tough rugby club and our opposition never liked travelling down to Forshaw because they knew they were in for a tough day. They also knew that when we were coming to their place, that we’d be up for the challenge. 

“That will certainly be the mantra moving forward through the off season and into the pre season.”

Which of your players do you expect to go on to bigger things from next season?

“It’s hard to look past Greg Foe and some of his performances towards the back end of the season. He came from nowhere and ended up finishing third in the Catchpole Medal and I think almost all of his points came at the backend of the season. 

“We’re still not sure if Greg will be back or not. He’s at the twilight of his career and he’s got some opportunities to coach back in New Zealand but we’d also love him to consider transitioning into coaching after a few more seasons here. 

“He was in the mix to be picked in the North Harbour v South Harbour fixture. 

“We’ve also got a few guys on the fringes of Super Rugby. Conor Young, Sama Malolo and Blake Schoupp. Blake has just signed with the Brumbies and Conor and Sama are both close. 

“This year, we’ve also seen Jed Holloway and Matt Gibbon debut for the Wallabies and we saw Nathan Lawson score the winning try for the Aussie 7s in Hong Kong last weekend. 

“All three of those players came through our colts program and moved into grade and I think that’s evidence that we can be a really strong development club. 

What can we expect from Souths and from the competition in 2023? 

“It’s exciting because while we did finish bottom of the table, we weren’t a long way off which is testament to the closeness of the competition. 

“We know that we’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us but we also take a lot of confidence out of the fact that we weren’t a long way off and there’s no reason why we can’t be back playing semi finals footy next year. From there, anything can happen.”

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