Alex Newsome eager to cap remarkable NRC season

NRC Semi Final - NSW Country Eagles v Melbourne Rising

After a strong Shute Shield season for Eastern Suburbs, 21-year old outside back Alex Newsome was hopeful of getting some NRC game time after earning a spot in the NSW Country Eagles extended squad.

Training alongside a host of Super Rugby stars for the first time, Newsome was desperate to make the most of the opportunity yet he was still shocked when coach Darren Coleman named him in the starting side for the Eagles round one clash against Brisbane City.

Taking the opportunity in his stride, Newsome scored a crucial try in his NRC debut and quickly cemented his spot in the NSW Country starting XV.

“It’s been great to play in a new environment with class players and coaches and I think that has helped me grow as a footballer,” he said.

“I knew the Eagles would have a really strong squad so I was hoping to get some game time this year but I definitely wasn’t expecting to start as much as I have.”

Despite being the only starting back without a Super Rugby contract, Newsome has been one of the Eagles most consistent performers in 2016 despite playing out of position.

“I’ve mostly played 13 and 15, I played outside centre all year for Easts. I played a bit of wing in the 20s last year but it is still pretty new to me. In saying that, I’m just happy to be playing, you could put me anywhere and I’d be happy.

“Having players like Kyle Godwin and Dave Horwitz inside you makes it pretty easy, they do some pretty special things and produce a lot of quality ball for me as an outside back.”

After getting a taste of what it would be like to play professional rugby, the Australian U20s rep from Glen Innes in northern NSW is clearly hungry for more.

“I’ve got Super Rugby aspirations so to be able to line up next to those guys and try and take my game to the level that they perform at has been great and I think that has really helped me develop my game,” he told Rugby News.

“Looking at guys like Kyle (Godwin) and Kel (Andrew Kellaway) who play in similar positions to me, you really notice their involvement, their communication and the intensity that they play with. All the little extra things they do help make them the players they are so it has been great to be exposed to that professionalism.”

In his final semester of a Commerce degree at Sydney Uni, Newsome has one eye on his rugby future but he says he’s trying to not get too far ahead of himself just yet.

“I just need to keep performing well. I know there are a lot of aspects of my game that I need to improve but I feel through the NRC that I’m getting closer to the standard required to play at that next level. If I can keep learning and keep improving, then hopefully things will fall into place.”

But his immediate focus is on this weekend’s NRC decider against Perth Spirit in Tamworth, just a few hours south of his home town Glen Innes.

“Perth have got a pretty impressive side with a lot of Super Rugby experience. We watched their game against the Rays on Sunday and I thought their forward pack was really impressive, they were really good at the breakdown. Getting a guy like Jono Lance back will make a difference, he’s been great all year so we’ll need to limit his opportunities.

“I talk to a lot of mates and friends and family back home and they have all been watching the NRC quite keenly. There are a lot of passionate rugby fans in NSW Country so to be able to represent that group of people is pretty important to me and to the team and I think that will give us an advantage.”

Newsome also thinks the tight nature of the Eagles squad will help get the home side over the line.

Eagles mentor Darren Coleman is the only remaining coach from the inaugural NRC in 2014 and a handful of NSW Country players are now in their third campaign together.

But Newsome says he feels just as comfortable in his first NRC season.

“Right from day one, the coaching staff has done an amazing job to bring everyone together, it’s a really tight squad.

“You’ve got experienced guys like Paddy Ryan and others trying to cement Waratahs positions like Kel (Kellaway) and (Dave) Horwitz, then you’ve got young guys like me but we’ve all come together and bonded really well so to win a comp and represent Country NSW, it would be pretty special.”

NSW Country and Perth Spirit meet in the NRC decider in Tamworth at 7:30pm on Saturday night.