NRC 2016: New coach confident Western Sydney Rams will be a threat
The newly named Western Sydney Rams have struggled in the opening two seasons of the National Rugby Championship but that could all be about to change according to new coach John Muggleton.
The former Wallabies assistant coach says he is close to finalising his roster for the 2016 season, which kicks off in late August.
“If everything comes together, I think we’ll be more than competitive. We’ve got some players still deciding if they want to play NRC or head overseas, but if we can get a few of those guys, I think we’ll be right up there,” Muggleton said.
“We’ve got Kevin Locke and Frank Winterstein who have both signed. They will need to get used to playing 15-a-side rugby, but we’re keeping a close eye on both of them.”
Muggleton has named former Brumbies Jeremy Paul and Joel Wilson on his coaching staff and is looking to pick his squad solely from the Rams feeder clubs – Penrith, Parramatta, West Harbour, Southern Districts and Eastwood.
“In general terms, all of our players will come from our feeder clubs and if they are not, we’ll want them to commit to one of those clubs for the following Shute Shield season.
“We’re not interested in bringing in different players year after year, that won’t help our organisation and it won’t help our feeder clubs either. We want guys that are willing to commit to Western Sydney and Southern Sydney.”
Heading into its third season, the NRC has been known for it’s free flowing rugby however Muggleton says he looking to play a more balanced style this season.
“I think you’ve got to be hard to beat first and I don’t think that’s what the Western Sydney franchise has been in recent years. Previously, teams have come down to play the Rams and all they’ve done is tee off. They’ve been quite happy to win 40-30 or 50-30 and you can’t defend against a side that is going to come at you the whole time, particularly when they are Super Rugby players,” he said.
“You need a good hard set piece, you need strong defence and you need a very good kicking game so that when you give the opposition the ball, you do it on your terms, not their terms and that should restrict their ability to counterattack.
“In saying that, when we get the opportunity, we need to put teams away. You may only get five or six opportunities in a game and you need to score five or six tries and make the other team pay if you are going to win.
In the wake of last weekend’s disappointing Super Rugby results, when all five Australian teams recorded losses, Muggleton highlighted the importance of the competition for Australian rugby as a whole.
“People are crying about injuries and having to bring club players in from outside of the Super Rugby franchises to play against sides like the Hurricanes and the Crusaders.
“This competition is the perfect opportunity for those type of players to play some decent footy against Super Rugby players and get used to the speed and the physicality.”
But perhaps more important is the Rams role in Western Sydney, where they’ll compete against a handful of established franchises in one of the most competitive sporting markets in the world.
“At the moment, quite a few of our club teams are towards the bottom of the Shute Shield table and that’s an indication of where we are at the moment.
“We need our club teams to improve and then the Rams will improve and when the Rams improve, the club teams will improve. It’s a cycle that needs to be started this year because the main aim is to make Western Sydney strong again.”
The Rams begin their 2016 NRC season on August 28 against the Sydney Rays at North Sydney Oval with the final squad expected to be released early next month.