Lachie Turns The Screws On Another Super Rugby Season
by Brendan Bradford –
Lachie Turner is ready to go. After a long and arduous preseason, the Waratahs and Eastwood winger can finally put the torture of the Coogee stairs behind him and focus on rugby as the side prepares for its first trial match against the Melbourne Rebels in Hobart on February 2nd.
“Cheik gave us the message the other day that we’d done our last stairs session for the preseason,” Turner said after training on Friday.
“Needless to say, the boys are pretty happy about that one and now we’re just holding on and waiting for the games to start.”
The Waratahs will likely head into the season as one of the fittest teams in the competition but for Turner, who missed the first half of last year with a torn hamstring, this preseason was particularly important.
“It’s been five years since I really had more than six weeks of training behind me going into the first game, so I was due for a preseason,” he says.
“It’s been really good to get out there and have some solid time working on my game and fitness levels. This year, I’ll be more prepared and not have to play catch up for the first four rounds, which I had been doing in previous years.”
Turner’s hamstring injury, sustained in a trial match against Samoa last February, kept him on the sidelines for four months but the lightning fast winger returned to the pitch in June with an increased passion for the game and scored a try in his first match back for Eastwood just minutes after coming on as a substitute against Sydney University.
Less than a month after his return for Eastwood, Turner completed his comeback with selection to the Waratahs’ starting side and a call up to the Wallabies’ training squad for the Rugby Championship.
The high injury toll the Waratahs endured last year certainly hampered their season but Turner points out an unintended positive the side is witnessing at the moment.
“What happened last year – it wasn’t great – but it gave a lot of guys the experience of Super Rugby,” he says.
“Peter Betham is training sensationally at the moment and Tom Kingston is another. They’ve really stepped up their game since last season and their added experience really puts us in a better position this year. It’s the one light we can take out of last year.”
With Turner and Drew Mitchell back from injury, Betham and Kingston on the rise, the inclusion of Israel Folau and the signing of Shute Shield stars like Michael Hodge and Cam Crawford, there will be stiff competition for starting backline positions in Cheika’s rejuvenated squad.
“There’s a chance we could have a Wallaby on the bench,” says Turner.
“There aren’t too many backlines that can say they’ve got one of their national representatives on the bench and there’s always guys hanging around after training and doing extras so it shows they’ve got a lot of desire and a lot of desperation to do well.”
The large contingent of hopeful backline players will have ample opportunity to impress Cheika and his assistant, Daryl Gibson – who both have a preference for running rugby – in three trial matches against the Rebels, Blues and Crusaders in the coming weeks.
“I think they’re gonna give the guys a bit more freedom to pick and choose our moments and you can already see the real runners of the group stepping up,” warns Turner.
“It’s great for a winger to be told you can run the ball and you’ll see plenty of it with the backline that we have. It’s exciting times for us and I’ve really liked working with Daryl over the last month. Just seeing the Kiwi perspective on how they view us and little areas they’ve been getting the better of us and I’m looking forward to picking his brains a bit more.”
Eastern Suburbs halfback, Brendan McKibbin will captain the Waratahs in their first two trial matches while the rest of the Waratahs’ Wallabies won’t be used until the third and final match.
Waratahs fans will get their first glimpse of the side on Thursday February 14th in the last trial match against the Crusaders at Allianz Stadium.