Chris Nay thriving in new look Southern Districts backline
2016 couldn’t have gone much better so far for Southern Districts and their new fullback Chris Nay.
Heading into the final round of the competition, the new look Rebels side is just one win away from securing a top three finish and a home semi final in the opening week of the finals.
“So far I think this year has gone really well,” Nay told Rugby News.
“There has been the occasional hiccup here and there and at times we’ve lacked consistency but I think in the games that we’ve lost, I feel we weren’t really outplayed, we’ve just lacked execution and that let us down.”
After losing to Eastwood in last year’s preliminary final, Southern Districts watched a handful of their biggest stars graduate to Super Rugby this year.
Captain Jed Holloway played his way into the Waratahs No.8 jersey, flyhalf Ben Volavola joined the Crusaders and outside backs Alex Gibbon and Paul Asquith headed to the Reds and Rebels respectively.
Many labelled the 2016 season “a rebuilding year,” but the Rebels new recruits, led by Nay, flyhalf Mitch Walton and forwards Alex Perez and Angus Ryan had other ideas.
“Mitch (Walton) and I struck up a good friendship early and at No.10 and No.15, that was important. A lot of the guys have been at Souths for a while now but they were really welcoming which was great,” the fullback said.
“As a backline, I think we’ve performed quite well considering the changes.
“We obviously lost some fairly class players last year but I think it was important that we didn’t try and emulate their roles. We tried to stick to what worked for us individually and I think that helped. “
Nay, who grew up the in Blue Mountains, spent three seasons playing with Parramatta, before joining Souths earlier this year.
“I felt very loyal to Parramatta and I loved my time there so it was definitely hard to leave.
“In mid 2014, I moved to Cronulla for work and I tried to stay loyal and travelled back and forth to Parra for a year and a half but after a while driving to the other side of Sydney for training a few times a week takes it toll. I’m really glad to see them doing well this year,” he said.
Nay was handed the No.15 jersey ahead of the opening round of 2016 and helped the Rebels start the year with six wins from their first eight matches.
“I found that it took me a while to settle in because Souths play a very different style. Parramatta are a very wide team so I never really had to inject myself because the ball would usually get thrown around the backline whereas at Souths, the forwards are very strong and they play very tactical rugby.
“I think it clicked around halfway through the season and now I’m really enjoying the style of rugby we play.”
The Rebels have averaged 34 points a match so far this year and have recently been boosted by the return of injured centres Apo Latunipulu and Denny Godinet.
Former Kiwi rugby league international Kevin Locke is also expected to return from a shoulder injury this week.
“I’m a big league fan and Kevin was one of my favourite players so I was thrilled to hear that he was coming to the club,” Nay said.
“Whether he comes on at fullback, on the wing or in the centres, I think a guy like that will be able to play anywhere once he gets a handle on the game and I think he’s going to be really damaging.
“I really hope that he can shake this injury and can slot in somewhere and contribute to our efforts in the finals.”
Nay says he expects the upcoming finals series to be the closest in recent years and admitted any team, from first to sixth could win the competition.
“I don’t think it matters whether it is one versus six, two versus five or three versus four, I think it’s going to be three high quality games and whoever turns up better on the day will get the points.”
The Rebels are currently third, one competition point behind first placed Sydney Uni, and can secure a home semi final with a victory over Eastern Suburbs on Saturday.
“We know teams don’t like travelling down here so it would be a massive bonus for us if we can get over Easts and head into the finals knowing that we’ve got at least one, if not two semi finals at home,” Nay said.
“I think that would put us in the best shape in terms of carving a route through to the grand final.”