Randwick coach Turinui set to bring his own version of running rugby to Coogee

Morgan Turinui has achieved plenty in rugby. 

The 20-cap Wallaby played with Randwick, NSW, QLD and the Wallabies before playing and coaching at State Francais and the Melbourne Rebels. 

But the 38-year old faces arguably his toughest challenge yet this year, after returning to where it all began to take on the Club Coaching role at Coogee Oval. 

“We’re killing it so far, we’re undefeated and everyone is loving me at the moment,” he joked. 

“No, its been great to get back to the club. I’ve got a very strong connection to the place so this role is obviously really important to me and it probably adds a little bit of pressure actually. When you care so much about a club, you really want to do a good job.”

Turinui said he’s been impressed with what he’s seen during his first preseason back at Coogee, with grade and colts combining over summer and the Randwick junior academy going from strength to strength 

“You turn up to Clovelly or Coogee beach on a Saturday in summer and you’ll see 150-200 kids running around in myrtle green Randwick t-shirts. Just enjoying themselves and throwing the footy around,” he said. 

“Then on a Wednesday, they’re up at Latham getting training from ex-Wallabies and a heap of Dads who have given up their time to help out. 

“We’ve had Chris Whitaker, Daryl Gibson, Owen Finegan, Simon Poidevin. Top players and top coaches who are happy to help out the younger kids, it’s fantastic.”

But while the future of the club looks bright, the more recent past on the field hasn’t been so positive, particularly in the higher grades. 

“It’s the club with the most Australian representatives of any, I think we’re still just ahead of Sydney Uni, but we haven’t won a first grade comp since 2004 and we’ve only won two grade comps in the last decade,” Turinui said.

“We talk about those great Randwick teams, but that’s getting further and further in the past so we need toaddress that. 

“To start, we need to make sure we’ve got the right talent at the club. It can’t always be about the shiny new, young No.9, 10 or 15. We need to be building depth in all positions so that we’ve got really balanced squads. Then we need a stable coaching group.”

Randwick have had three first grade head coaches in the past five seasons and have passed the reigns again over summer to former colts and club coach Ben McCormack. 

“Ben will get more opportunity to be a hands on coach this year. Shute Shield is almost an under 25s comp now with a few exceptions,” Turinui explained. 

“But it’s really a chase the dream, try and earn a professional contract competition and having a younger coach that has spent a lot of time with the younger players at the club should really help.”

While Turinui understands all Randwick sides are expected to play a certain style of rugby, the former centre has a slightly different take on what it means to play “running rugby.”

“We’ve got to find a style of play that suits the talent that we’ve got and that wins games.

“The Randwick way of playing, that romantic running rugby style, I have this argument all the time with the older guys, because I remember watching those teams play and they used to kick the ball quite a bit.

“But when the other team made a mistake or when the other team kicked poorly to them, they always attacked and made the opposition pay. 

“I think that’s got to be the focus, to make the most of your opportunities on turnover ball and unstructured play. Then we want to attack and be a skilful, fast moving team. 

“You can talk about attacking shapes and different patterns all you like but if you can play fast, get over the gain line and win your own ball, well then the rest is pretty easy.”

While Turinui preferred not to single out any individuals, he said there were a handful of players  who he thought could be in for a big year, as Randwick’s first grade side look to break their playoff drought. 

“Considering what’s happening with the broadcast deal (and a potential new National Club Competition), I’d say you’ll want to be up the pointy end of the ladder this year. 

“There’s always high expectations at Randwick and we want to be playing finals and winning finals across all seven competitions. 

“We also want to give the club championship a good shake. I think that’s a great way to measure a club’s success.

“It’s probably a little underrated in Sydney club rugby but we expect to be right up there this year.”