Premier Rugby: Bulked up Easts squad targeting finals footy in 2020

By Liz Moore

There have been a lot of changes to the Easts line-up this year leaving coach Moses Raulini very pleased with the ‘crucial’ depth in both his squad as a whole and its leadership pool who are all “chomping at the bit” to play.

The Easts squad has gained former Wallabies skipper Ben Mowen, along with six others who would most likely have been playing overseas if this year had gone to plan, including Richie Asiate, Tom Milosevic, Landon Hayes, Dylan Taikato, Phoenix Hunt and Kirwan Sanday.

Despite losing five players to other clubs, Raulini is delighted for the ones Easts have picked up, including the Smit brothers from Wests, Jayden Carroll from Norths, Aidan Toua from Brothers, Mika Tela from Souths and George Francis from Warringah in Sydney.

There have also been several players lost for employment reasons and to overseas, and Aaron Sorridomi who’s retired, but Raulini said overall the squad is stronger for the new-look season.

“Covid’s been kind to us,” joked the former Fiji international player and skills coach. 

“I’m very happy with how the boys are training. They’re training hard, but every club would be doing the same.

“It’s going to be quite a tough mental battle this year because it’s only one round and every game is a grand final so having a good depth in your squad is crucial, I believe, so if you have any injuries you can fill in.

“We’ve got that now compared to last year. We’ve got a bit of speed in Mika Tela and Aidan Touia coming back. And Dylan Taikato came over from America, he played for us last year.”

Raulini said Taikato isn’t normally available to play until about this time through a normal season, so to have him available for the whole season is a bonus.

“That’s why I was saying this Covid has been special, good for us actually. Rhys Jacks broke his ankle (in the trials) and he’s been able to come back into the second pre-season of the year.

“I think every team’s going to be in the same boat with people coming back from overseas.”

In terms of the competition, Easts is determined to stay in the top four again this year.

“The boys and I don’t want anything less, hence why we’ve been training pretty hard,” Raulini said

“I think this break has given them a second wind.

“We’ve got a squad now that could come close, they’ll have to work hard obviously and play well and play smart.

“The main thing is to win every game we can. 

“It’s going to be like a schoolboy season with only one round. Every game is going to be like a grand final.”