NRC: North Harbour Rays reappoint Townsend as coach
The North Harbour Rays have reappointed Geoff Townsend to lead them through the 2015 National Rugby Championship season.
Townsend, who has guided Gordon through the rebuilding of the club over the past couple of seasons, backs up after being thrown the reins at the Rays last year when Phil Blake took up a plum appointment with the Leicester Tigers in the English premiership.
“Geoff did a great job bringing players from our four feeder clubs (Gordon, Manly, Northern Suburbs and Warringah) together and I am sure he will be able to build on that very solid foundation in 2015,” Rays chairman Gary Flowers said.
“I can remember remarking during the season that you wouldn’t know that the Rays were a team that had come together from four clubs that only weeks earlier had been such fierce Shute Shield rivals.”
The Rays missed out on the playoffs in finishing in seventh position, but going into the final round match against the Sydney Stars at Leichhardt Oval, they still had a chance of making the four-team semi-final series.
In the end, the Rays’ eight-game NRC season was made up of two wins, two draws and four losses but they forged a reputation for having one of the hardest packs in the inaugural running of the competition.
Since the end of the season skipper Greg Peterson has played Test Rugby for the USA Eagles and has picked up a contract with the Leicester Tigers while young centre Mali Hingano has been signed for French Top 14 club La Rochelle where he often starts in the centres.
Young Manly Marlins hooker Dave Porecki is now training with the NSW Waratahs and has been used in the Gen Blue system in recent weeks.
But set-piece reliability was an ongoing issue for the Rays in 2014 and this hurt the team and the results that were produced.
“That’s obviously an area that we will need to improve on to make the playoffs in 2015,” Townsend said.
“The focus now is on the clubs with the start of the Shute Shield, but we will be working away in the background to make sure that we bring together a structure and a playing group that will do justice to the whole Rays concept.”
The coaching team will be fleshed out in coming weeks but the Rays will need to replace former Warringah first grade coach Haig Sare who has moved to Queensland to be closer to his family.
Sare worked closely with the backs at the Rays and drew on his strong relationship with the Rats backline stars who made up a fair slice of the backline.
The NRC season will kick off on Thursday, August 20th with the grand final to be played on the weekend of November 1st right in the midst of the Rugby World Cup in the UK.
The competition is sure to be an ideal proving ground if and when injuries hit the Wallabies throughout RWC 2015.
The Rays played their four home games at Brookvale Oval and averaged a little over 2,000 through the gate at each of these matches. They also featured in four of Fox Sports’ televised games.