Deja vu creeping in as Sinclair’s Shoreman look to snap winless streak against confident Two Blues
By Matt Findlay
Northern Suburbs’ Shute Shield campaign so far feels all too familiar, with consecutive losses following an impressive opening month, there’s almost a sense of deja vu about their start to 2019.
You wouldn’t go as far as saying the side’s in a slump, but their back-to-back losses in the last fortnight continue what seems to have become an early or mid-season trend for the Shoremen.
Veteran five-eighth Angus Sinclair’s certainly feeling that, he’s seen it before – “we have had similar periods the last few seasons” were his exact words this week – in every year since returning from his well-publicised battle with chronic fatigue syndrome in 2016.
Last year was their best start to a season since, but even then after running through the opening eight rounds without a loss, Norths then dropped three of their next four games.
They have always largely recovered though, not missing a finals series since Sinclair’s return, winning the premiership in 2016 and making the grand final the year after that.
So, naturally in a competition as close as 2019’s, it’s far from panic stations at North Sydney Oval.
“Those periods seem to have come when a few guys have been hurt or we’ve had a couple go away for higher honours,” Sinclair said.
“We’re not too far off. Last weekend Sydney Uni played well but we probably weren’t great. We could easily have been up 14-nil but instead were down 14-3 after an intercept try and a bad exit from me.
“The week before against Randwick we just made too many errors, so we know what the problem is and everyone’s hungry to get a win (against Western Sydney this weekend) after a couple of losses.
“[Western Sydney] did have a win last weekend over Souths though and they sound pretty decent, so that’s proof anyone can beat anyone.
“We’ll definitely have to fire if we want to get that win.”
Norths also fielded a reasonably inexperienced pack against the students last weekend too and while, as Sinclair said, “we always back anyone coming into the side”, it did play a role in the defeat.
That’s not something the Shoremen are strangers too though, with plenty of Norths’ guns earning a crack at the next level over recent years.
Sinclair’s watched plenty of his teammates go on to higher honours too, including his brother Hugh. They were both fortunate enough to unite with youngest brother Hamish in the top grade earlier this season, too.
For instance, a plethora of Norths’ 2016 premiership side has gone on to Super Rugby honours and in prop Angus Ta’avao’s case, an All Blacks gig.
“I actually think it’s extra motivation, the other guys getting their chance,” Sinclair said.
“Training with them day-in, day-out you never feel like you’re that far off. If you look at it there hasn’t been too many of our backs that have been given the chance.”
Three years ago the thought of pushing beyond Shute Shield and the National Rugby Championship didn’t cross Sinclair’s mind, playing rugby at all barely did.
But he said he’s feeling as fit, and as strong as he has since his return, so it’s not something he’d rule out given that chance.
“I was just so grateful to be playing at all because I didn’t know whether I’d be able to do that again,” Sinclair said.
“I’m fitter and I’m stronger than I have been previously (so) now I think I probably forget about it in a way which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“In the 2016 season I wasn’t in the gym or anything I was just trying to manage being able to run and play, and just concentrating on the rugby side of things because I didn’t want to push it too hard, too early.
“Having those two years off probably mentally refreshed me as well, I’m back into it all now and I’m feeling really good.”
However it’s not something that’s a priority, not for Sinclair or for Norths.
“That’s one really good thing about Norths, we just want to win games of footy and we don’t really care about individual performances,” he said.
“I don’t know if every club really has that. For me, I’d certainly rather play shit and win the game than have a blinder and lose.”
Norths travel to Lidcombe Oval to face the Two Blues from 3pm on Saturday afternoon, the home side brimming with confidence following their breakthrough, one-point, 25-24 victory over Southern Districts last week.