Eastwood impress in preseason trial against Western Force

Eastwood coach Ben Batger said there were plenty of positives to take out of his side’s pre-season trial loss to the Western Force in Perth on Saturday. 

The Woodies crossed the Nullarbor to take on Twiggy Forrest’s professional Global Rapid Rugby side ahead of the start of their season on March 14. 

“It was a really pleasing result from our perspective. The coaching staff got a lot out of seeing which of our players stepped up and which players still need a bit of work. We’ve got two months until round one, so it was a really pleasing performance,” Batger said. 

Eastwood matched the Force early and trailed 19-15 at half time, before the former Super Rugby side gained ascendency in the second half. 

“Considering it was three tries all in the first half when we both had our best teams on the field, we were really happy,” the coach said. 

“Later in the game, we put on a few of our development players who were playing third or fourth grade last year, or in country competitions. For those guys to play against a professional outfit, it was a fantastic experience.”

While Batger was impressed with his side, he admitted the Force were a step ahead of their usual club opponents in Sydney. 

“They’re training five days a week compared to our two, so it was always going to be tough,” he said. 

“When they had their top squad on the field in the first half, you could really notice their professionalism. The hits were a lot harder, we struggled to get gain line, then on turnover ball their fitness was a lot better than ours.

“But I thought Enoki Muluifi and Fabian Goodall were both really good in the backs for us, then Michael Icely and Jed Gillespie led in the forward. 

“A few of the new guys were really impressive as well. Take Edmed is a young No.10 and he had some really good touches when he came on.”

Batger said he was impressed with the Western Force and had high hopes for the future of the Global Rapid Rugby competition, which sees the Force take on sides throughout Asia. 

“They’ve got a really good set up and I think Australian rugby should probably be supporting them a little more than they are. They’re trying to bring rugby to the west and it is a very isolated place, so I’m glad we were able to get over there to help them out. 

“They were great to deal with, very professional and we had a great experience.”

With the season less than two months away, Batger said the coaching staff chose not to fly the squad home on the red eye flight back to Sydney, allowing the players to bond ahead of the season. 

“We kept the boys over there to enjoy a good Saturday night. They all behaved on Friday so we just told them that they needed to be on the bus at 9:30am the next day and they all made it. 

“Some were a little more red eyed than others but I think they all enjoyed themselves and we all made it home in one piece.”

Eastwood have lost a number of experienced campaigners from last season but Batger said he remained optimistic ahead of the 2020 Shute Shield season. 

“We’ve got two more weeks of preseason, then we play trials against Gordon, Norths and West Harbour so things start to ramp up now. 

“We’ve actually got the bye in round one, so we’ve got a bit more time to prepare than the other sides but all the boys are ready to go.”