Coaches Call: Who the 11 Shute Shield coaches think they’ll play in this year’s grand final

Coaches are optimistic people, at least they are at this point of the season.

So ahead of the opening round of the 2019 Shute Shield season, we asked all 11 who they thought they’d be playing in this year’s grand final. 

Eastern Suburbs – Pauli Taumoepeau

“It’s got to be Sydney Uni. They’ll have a young team again but Rob (Taylor) just has a way of getting the best out of players and I think he’ll do that again this year.

“They went on a two week tour of New Zealand and they probably didn’t get the results they wanted on the field, but I think more importantly, they got to spend two weeks together as a group focussing on rugby full time. The amount of detail you can get in during that time without all the usual distractions is huge, so I think they’ll start the year very well.

“It’s going to be a tight comp again, unfortunately. You try and find easy weeks or easier games and there aren’t really any anymore. But it’s great for the competition and good for rugby so it should be another big year.”

Eastwood – Ben Batger 

“Sydney Uni are still the benchmark. It’s hard to compete with a team that can train five times a week and run close to a professional program in an amateur competition. They’ve got a good coach and a similar squad to last year so they’ll be hard to beat,” Batger said.

“It’s hard to know too much at this point of the year. There are a lot of changes in the coaching ranks as well so we will probably see a side or two move up the ladder, it’s just hard to know which sides it will be.”

Gordon – Darren Coleman

“Early on I thought Easts and I still do. They’ll have another year under their belt with Pauli and they’ve picked up a few more good players.

“After seeing who Eastwood have picked up though, I think they’ll be very hard to beat.

“They’ve always had a strong forward pack, but if they can get their best seven backs on the field at the same time, they’ll take some handling.

“Then obviously Sydney Uni, they’ll be there again.”

Manly – Brian Melrose 

“Sydney Uni are the clear favourites based on last year and the player allocations but things can change from year to year.

“If Easts don’t make the top three, there will have to be an enquiry based on the amount of quality players they have.

“Those two teams standout, then Eastwood seem to have recruited well, Norths have a really good squad. Randwick will improve, Gordon will get better and the Rats are always up there. It’s a tough comp isn’t it.

“On balance, you’d have to say if we’re in the grand final, we’ll be playing Sydney Uni.”

Northern Suburbs – Nick Hensley

“I think Easts will be really good. They’ve got a lot of good quality talent and a lot of their guys are in the Waratahs system, but may not be on the field for the Tahs regularly.

“Sydney Uni are always going to be there and I think Eastwood have recruited well and had strong trial form.

“From those three, I’d probably pick Easts but there will probably be a bunch of other sides in contention as well.”

Randwick – Hadley Jackson

“Easts,” Jackson said.

“Our boys could think of nothing better than a packed out North Sydney Oval to finish the year with a local derby. From all reports, they seem to be going great guns.

“We play Easts on Anzac Day on a Thursday at Coogee Oval and I know all of the boys are already really looking forward to that.”

Southern Districts – Don Mackinnon

“Sydney Uni are probably the team to beat based on last year. I think Gordon will be the big improver with DC in charge. He’s recruited well.”

“But to be honest, I really don’t care because as long as we’re there, we’ll be right in the match.”

Sydney Uni – Rob Taylor 

“I think Norths are a very good team on paper and they’ve shown that over the last few years. They’ve got a host of fringe Super Rugby players and I don’t think anyone should be surprised to see how well they they this year.

“Easts have also recruited really well and they are very well coached.

“There’s also been a lot of coaching changes so we’ll see a lot of enthusiasm in clubs like Gordon, Randwick and Souths, so those teams will come out of the blocks firing.

“I’d have to say Norths are the team though.”

Warringah – Mark Gerrard

“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.”

West Harbour – Mark Gudmunson

“It’s a tough question.

“Looking at recruitment, Eastwood obviously look like they’ve got a really strong team with ex West Harbour players Tayler Adams and Enoki Muliufi in there.

“Easts also have a lot of Waratahs fringe players that are going to come back to them at some stage so they are probably the two teams I’d have to say.”

Western Sydney – Joel Rivers

“I spent a lot of time playing at Sydney Uni and it’s hard to go past them. Although I really think there is something special cooking at Easts.

“Sydney Uni or Easts are probably my picks but it we were to make the grand final, I wouldn’t care who we are playing.”