Rams look to club success for continuity
By Henry Jacobs
After falling agonisingly short of the finals last year the Greater Sydney Rams are looking to build on the 2015 club successes of its squad members as it prepares for the second installment of the National Rugby Championship.
There are seven members of the Shute Shield winning Eastwood side in the Rams squad and ten from third placed Southern Districts.
Jim Williams has named a starting lineup with nine players from the respective teams and will benefit from the continuity of prior established combinations, given the short preparation time.
“Having played a lot of footy against each other over the past two years and having a lot of the [Rams] squad together from last year, particularly given the short turnaround, that cohesion is pretty important this week,” Rams and Eastwood flyhalf Jai Ayoub said.
“It’s only an eight round competition so we want to get off to a pretty good start and not drop a couple of games early, I think having those combinations and connections with the guys that we have played with and against for so long gives a good feeling in the camp about getting straight into it and not having to stuff around developing calls and plays.”
The Rams will be looking for consistency after only one player, Guy Millar, played every game last year.
The side will have to adapt to the loss of key personnel such as 2014 top try scorer Jarome McKenzie, who has moved to the Eagles, as well top point scorer – Fiji and Crusaders signing Ben Volovola.
After guiding Eastwood to the Shute Shield title with an 81st minute drop goal last week, pivot Jai Ayoub is looking to fill the backline void left by Volovola as he links with club partner Brad Curtis in the backs.
“I’m just going to focus on what I do well, which is trying to organise and lead the team around and be that direction that the guys need,” Ayoub said.
“Hopefully that works for us this year and I can get the ball to where our strengths are and guide the team around the paddock for the full 80 minutes . . . you see that with the dominant Super Rugby teams and their halves and how they get around the field, so if I can take a leaf out of that book it will hopefully hold the team in good stead.”
Despite missing out on the finals by a solitary point in 2014 the Rams only won three from eight matches, picking up just two bonus points in the process.
Only six points separated fourth and eighth position last season and with such congestion in the fight for finals spots every point is at a premium.
“Last year there were a lot of games where we left points out on the field and I think that this year we have to focus on executing and taking the points from those games and not leaving anything out there,” Ayoub said.
“We saw last year how enterprising the NRC is with the new rules and everything that it brings, obviously there is a plethora of talent around as well, so there’s no doubt there is going to be a lot of try scoring opportunities.
“If we can make the most of every try scoring chance we get we will be in a lot better position to hopefully grab a few more of those bonus points.”
The Rams take on last years semi-finalists, the NSW Country Eagles, on Saturday and will be hoping to reverse the result of last years round one fixture when it suffered its heaviest ever defeat by a 31-2 margin.