Greg’s Goss: New stars emerge in opening round of Shute Shield
By Greg Dowden
After what felt like the longest pre-season in history, the jewel in the crown of Australian rugby kicked off for 2019 last weekend.
Here’s what I thought of the opening weekend of the season.
Easts, Eastwood and Norths impress in round one
Easts, Eastwood and Norths were the three teams that impressed me the most in the opening round.
Easts lived up to their preseason hype and were too good for Sydney Uni at University Oval. Mack Mason proved he is a very good player and dominated the game.
Eastwood ventured to Coogee and buried the young Randwick side 40-12 with Tayler Adams scoring 15 points.
Norths also looked good in their win over Warringah. New Coach Nick Hensley looks to have improved the team even more from last year. The Rats have work to do but were down on troops.
The best part of round one for me was seeing the amount of new players who have stepped up into first grade. It looks like a whole new breed of players will make their mark in 2019.
Return of the Mack
After a horror starting debut for the Waratahs against the Sunwolves, Mack Mason returned for the Beasties in style last weekend with a man of the match performance.
Mason looked like he had time and space all game and scored 24 points, with a try, five conversions and three penalty goals.
He’s Super Rugby performance was disappointing but Mack is a top guy with plenty of talent and must be given time to develop. At this stage, club rugby seems to suit him.
If Easts keep Mason in their No.10 jersey all year, they’ll be very hard to beat.
Mack Mason – As I mentioned earlier, Mason was outstanding for Easts and provided plenty of spark. He’s a very skilful player.
Gary Bautz – Started the season on fire and looks fitter than ever.
Sama Malolo – The young Souths hooker played very well in his debut in first grade.
Kotoni Ale – The Manly captain was everywhere and provided plenty of competition at the breakdown.
Tayler Adams – Provided a real x factor for the Woods and will be vital in 2019.
What to expect this week
The Eastwood v Manly clash and the Easts v Warringah match will tell us a lot about those four teams.
Manly won easily when they played Eastwood last year but the Woodies look like a different side this season. So far, they look like they are the real deal.
The Easts v Warringah match may also potentially be a changing of the guard. Easts look on the rise while Warringah may be in a rebuilding phase after a disappointing round one loss to Norths.
Are Gordon the real deal under DC?
The Stags had the bye in round one and enter the new season full of hope and optimism. Premiership winning coach Darren Coleman has joined the club and I already in the trials I have seen a change in the club.
DC has recruited well and it will be interesting to see how they go at home against Souths this weekend.
The biggest hurdle to overcome for me will be the mental battle. While DC has recruited some new players there is a core of Gordon players. As we know winning can be a habit and so can losing.
Look out for the Margin brothers Jack and Hugh and Jacob Abel, younger brother of Robbie and Charlie. In my view DC is a winner and he will only be good for the proud club who should have a big season.
I’m tipping Souths in a tight game but stand by for a new attitude in the Tartan army.
Player to watch in round two:
New Manly recruit Beaudein Waaka looks a very good player. He has extensive experience in the ITM Cup in NZ and could light up the Shute Shield and be a great signing for Manly.
Rumour of the week
The rumour doing the rounds this week is that one new recruit may be looking for a new club after butting heads with his new teammates at training.
The player is a serious talent and it would be sad to see us lose him from the Shute Shield.