Intrust Shute Shield: Round 1 Match Previews
By Sam Ryan
Sydney University v Eastwood – Live on 7TWO
Sydney University host reigning premiers Eastwood in the feature match of the opening round, to be broadcast live on 7TWO from 3pm on Saturday.
Former Australia Sevens and Waratahs recruit Brad Wilkin will start at No.8 for the Students with Jim Stewart and Tom Carter forming a strong pairing in the midfield of an exciting University backline.
Eastwood beat Uni in a pre-season trial just weeks ago, however new Woodies coach Stu Woodhouse said his side isn’t looking too much into that result and will need to be at their best if they are to start 2016 with a win.
“We need to show more aggression in our defence compared to what our trial form has shown and need to try and out enthuse Uni, which is always fairly difficult,” Woodhouse said.
Eastwood will be without veterans Hugh Perritt and Ben Batger for the first time tomorrow, but have named new recruit Jerome McKenzie on the wing for the opening round clash.
Southern Districts v Manly
Southern Districts host Manly in another round one blockbuster featuring two teams from last year’s finals.
The Rebels have lost a handful of their most consistent performers from last year, with Ben Volavola, Jed Hollaway, Paul Asquith and Alex Gibbon all moving on after strong seasons, but still boast an impressive side led by new captain Marcus Carbone.
“Yeah we’ve lost a few big names but we’ve also picked up a few good players. Sean Doyle is back with us after some time in Ireland and with the Brumbies so he will add plenty of enthusiasm and experience,” Rebels coach Matt Barr told Rugby News.
Manly have also lost some big names heading into 2016, with coach Damien Cummins admitting it’s difficult to know what to expect heading into the round one clash.
“Without video footage it’s hard to know, so we are just focussing on our own performance this weekend. We want to play smart, percentage footy,” Cummins said.
Manly fullback BJ Hartmann has been named at inside centre for the clash, with New Zealand import Josh Turner set to make his Marlins debut at the back.
Eastern Suburbs v Warringah
Eastern Suburbs host a new look Warringah outfit at Woollahra Oval with six new faces named in the Rats starting side.
After a disappointing 2015, Easts coach Darren Coleman told Rugby News he wanted his side to be the fittest and most organised team in the competition by round one, after what he labelled the most difficult and challenging pre-season he’s ever been involved in.
Former Canberra Vikings flanker and Waratahs recruit Rowan Perry will make his Beasties debut at No.7, with veteran Phil Mathers also returning to bolster the Easts pack.
Their opponents, Warringah, have had their own challenges over summer, having lost six first grade forwards from last season.
Rats coach Greg Marr said he expects Easts to be strong up front and doesn’t want his side to overcomplicate things this weekend.
“With six new faces heading into round one, it’s important that we keep things simple, play direct and focus on our communication in defence.
Former Brumbies centre Rodney Iona has been named at No.12 in a backline that also features Josh Holmes, Hamish Angus and Dave Feltscheer.
Gordon v Penrith
Both Gordon and Penrith are looking to improve on disappointing seasons last year and will both be desperate to claim a first round win when they meet at Chatswood Oval.
Gordon coach Geoff Townsend said he has been happy with his side’s preseason, but wants to see a consistent performance this weekend.
“We need to play out the full game. In our two trials, we have performed well for one half and poorly for the other,” Townsend said.
New Penrith coach and former Wallabies hooker Jeremy Paul said he wants his new look Emus side to be in the contest this weekend and said he is more worried about the process than the result.
“We have recruited really well and have worked extremely hard in the off-season and that’s led to some new players coming to the club. We know our history and where we come from, so to build a team you need to understand your past and create a new era,” Paul told Rugby News.
“There’s nothing technical about what we are trying to do, we aren’t at that stage yet. It’s about building a culture and work ethic and when we have that, then we can start to concentrate more on the technical aspects of the game.
Northern Suburbs v West Harbour
Northern Suburbs and West Harbour are looking to play finals footy in 2016 after both narrowly missing the top six last season.
The Shoreman have lost captain Ben Matwijow to the Queensland Reds and John Porch to the Australian Sevens program however coach Simon Cron is confident that a few of his younger players will step up to fill the void.
He admitted it’s hard to know what to expect from the Pirates in round one.
“They have recruited fairly heavily, so they may have a different approach. We are just looking to implement the work-ins from the off season into our game and then do them consistently.”
West Harbour coach Neil Tunnah said he is looking for a cohesive team performance from his new-look side.
“I expect Norths to be very well structured with a strong scrum and line out and great at the breakdown,” Tunnah told Rugby News
Former Melbourne Rising winger Justin Masters has been named at outside centre in his Shute Shield debut.
Parramatta v Randwick
After a strong pre-season under new coach Paul Hardwick, Parramatta are quietly confident that they can challenge Randwick at Merrylands on Saturday.
The Two Blues have added former Wallabies assistant coach John Muggleton to their coaching ranks and Hardwick is hopeful of seeing immediate results this weekend.
“Randwick will take the ball to the line and look to spread the ball to their fast outside backs,” he told Rugby News.
“But I believe the work we have done in the off-season regarding our defensive structures will see improvement in our ability to stifle their expansive attack.”
After losing in the opening week of last year’s finals, Shannon Fraser is confident his young Randwick side will continue to develop this year and wants to see an aggressive performance this weekend.
“We are going to need to assert ourselves on the game physically and win as many contact situations as possible. Parramatta pride themselves on the collision and with Muggo involved this will again be an area of strength,” Fraser said.
“If we can stop their momentum, it will go a long way to coming away with the points.”
Randwick will be without 2015 Catchpole Medal winner Dave Horwitz for the round one clash and have named Andrew Kellaway on the wing.