Randwick aiming to return to glory days under new coach Owen Finegan
Newly appointed Randwick coach Owen Finegan believes a handful of relatively minor changes to the rugby program at Coogee Oval will help the Galloping Greens transform from a talented top six team, to genuine Shute Shield premiership contenders in 2018 and beyond.
After spending a season as assistant coach in 2017, the former Wallaby will take the reigns from Shannon Fraser next season.
“Over the last two years, Randwick have been competitive all season but then slipped away come finals time. Two years ago, they were leading the competition with two rounds remaining but lost their next three games,” Finegan said.
“This year, we were second with two rounds left and did the same thing, so that’s obviously something we need to address.
“Our goal at a rugby level was to win the club championships this year but we didn’t, we came second. We were the only club to have all seven teams in the finals, but after a week, we only had one or two teams left, so it’s not a great result and that’s something we need to fix.
“You don’t want to be bowing out in the first week of the finals, you want to be competing to win competitions. That needs to be the goal.”
Finegan won a handful of Shute Shield premierships in his six seasons at Randwick in the 1990’s, before joining the Brumbies ahead of their inaugural season in 1996.
The backrower went on to play 90 Super Rugby matches and made 56 appearances for the Wallabies and after a three year stint playing in the UK, rejoined the Brumbies as an assistant coach in 2008.
The 45-year old entered the business world soon after and is currently CEO of The Kids Cancer Project, an independent charity that supports childhood cancer research.
“This year was a good introduction back to coaching and you can have some influence on the group as an assistant, but probably not as much as you’d like,” Finegan said.
“We’ll definitely change the way we play because every coach has his own style and his own ideas about how the game should be played. This year, I focussed on defence and the breakdown and we’ll continue to develop there and in other areas as well.
“But at the end of the day, you’ve got to be willing to work for one another. I’ve seen plenty of champion teams beat teams of champions, so you need to have a good work ethic. If we can get that and tweak a few key areas of our game, we should be right in the mix.”
While star flyhalf Andrew Deegan, centre Dave Horwitz and Director of Rugby Nick Ryan have all taken up professional opportunities elsewhere, Finegan said he was hopeful of retaining the majority of the 2017 playing group and will look to inject more young talent into the grade sides from the club’s successful colts program.
“Deegs (Andrew Deegan) is probably the only one we’ll lose that played for most of the season. We lose Horwitz to the Rebels, but we didn’t see him much throughout the season and I thought Ben Starkey was one of our most consistent performers at No.12 this year anyway. You don’t lose a lot there,” the coach said.
“Then we’ll have 20 or 30 guys come into grade from colts again next year and some of those guys have played first grade already. They might not be ready to play first grade consistently but that will come with time and experience.”
Finegan singled out young forwards Jack Johnson and Jack Hayson as two players to keep an eye on in 2018, but remained tightlipped about the club’s recruitment for next season.
“Obviously with Deegs (Andrew Deegan) leaving, there is a spot open at flyhalf and we’ve got guys in second and third grade that are good enough, but we’ve also heard from a few other No.10s, so we’ll see how that plays out over the next month or so.
“You’ve also got a lot of Super Rugby players moving from Western Australia, so there will be plenty of movement into Sydney and Brisbane in the next few months.”
But regardless of who runs out at Coogee Oval in April next year, a Finegan coached side certainly won’t be there to make up the numbers, as Randwick search for their first Shute Shield premiership since 2004.
“I always hear people say that we’ve got a good young squad, but most of our guys will be playing their second or third year of first grade next year, so they’re not that young anymore and we need to be good enough to compete with the best teams in the competition all year round,” he said.
“If you look at this year’s competition, there were eight or so clubs that were genuinely competitive and there will probably be a few more next year.”