Shute Shield 2023: What each club is focussing on over summer

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As of Friday, we’re only 134 sleeps away from the start of the 2023 Shute Shield season on Saturday April 1.

Sure, it might be early for some.

But after the season just gone, the team at Rugby News are already looking forward to more Shute Shield action.

Recently, we spoke to all 12 Shute Shield coaches from 2022 and asked each of them what the focus would be at their clubs over summer.

Eastern Suburbs

“The boys are working pretty hard already and we’re probably three months ahead of where we were last year, which is great,” return coach Simon Kneebone said.

“I think the players now have confidence in the coaching group, which is always hard to establish in year one. We’ll now continue with our development to try and play an expansive game.

“Over the next three months, we’ll focus on really enjoying each others company. The group is really tight and we’re pleased about that.

“2022 certainly highlighted some of the skill sets that you need to compete in this competition. That’s mostly around the set piece and playing rugby at the right end of the field.

“My mentality is always that we play rugby to enjoy it so we’ll still look to express ourselves as much as possible.

“I was pleased to see how many tries we scored from counterattack this year. That shows that the boys know that if they see an opportunity, then that can take it and we’ll look to continue that next year.”


“Firstly, we’re going to have to bring some new players into the first grade squad. We’ve got a number of guys taking up different professional and semi-professional opportunities overseas,” returning coach Ben Batger told Rugby News.

“George Worth has gone back to the UK, Fabian Goodall is off to the MLR, Sam Delores is going to Italy, James Wayland is playing in the Championship, Lachie Shelley has signed with Leicester Tigers.

“We’re really proud as a club that we’ve helped those guys earn their opportunities and it’s also opened the door for other players to step up into our first grade squad.

“We had a really strong 1st colts side this year who finished just one game short of the grand final and we’ve got seven or eight of those who I think will be in and around our 1s and 2s squads.

“We’ll rebuild and then probably make a couple of little changes. We weren’t far off this year but we’ll certainly be putting a bit more emphasis into our maul, that’s a given. We’ll also be working on our kick strategy, that seems to be the way that the game is evolving.

“We worked a lot on our defence this year and it improved a hell of a lot and we’ll keep working on that because defence always wins championships.”

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“There are probably two or three parts of our game that let us down and stopped us from winning the competition” returning coach Billy Melrose said. 

“I think our lineout creaked under pressure at times throughout the season. We can get better there 

“Our defence kept improving and improving throughout the season – One of our finals wins was with 30% of ball and literally no field position but I don’t think we ever got it to the point where it was watertight, particularly close to our line.  

“Then there were a few small parts of our attack that we didn’t really get on top of. We were a team that aside from a few of the forward, had only played a small amount together so there was good improvement and hopefully that can continue on in 2023 . 

“At the end of every year, you hope you can hold on to most of your squad and have another crack the following year but in the modern game, there are always potentially a few boys moving on to other opportunities. So if that occurs, we’ll need to develop our young guys or find a few players to keep things going .”


“I’d really like to see us build on our consistency. We want to get the same guys training together consistently over summer so we can continue to build that cohesion,” returning coach Scott Coleman said.

“I also think we can build on our professionalism.

“This year we focussed a lot on grade, while we tried to get our colts program up and running. Next year we still want to improve in grade but our main focus will be building the colts program to build that development pathway.

“We’ve appointed John Muggleton as head of colts. Our second grade coach from this year is also transitioning to colts to work with the existing coaches. It’s exciting times.”


“I know everyone at the club is working really hard both on and off the field to make sure the club is in a better place again at the end of next season,” newly appointed first grade coach and former assistant coach Chris Delooze told Rugby News.

“Our board is working really hard to ensure we have the resources and infrastructure we need to support our players.

“We’ve also just appointed a new strength and condition coach in Dave Kennett. A former Manly player with an exceptional CV having worked with the Cronulla Sharks, Manly Sea Eagles as well as head of Strength and Conditioning at Shore for 11 year.

“Without giving too much away, we’ve got a few ideas in and around what we’re trying to implement through individual athletic development that should translate into  our on field performance and game style. This is based on what we’ve learned after analysing the data from the 2022 season.

“At times we struggled to win the key moments in tight games, particularly towards the end of the year. We were also one of the most ill-disciplined sides in the competition, giving away too many points and too much field position, so they are a few things we’re looking to change.

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Northern Suburbs

“I think as a group, we’ve really only just started to scratch the surface of where we want to take our game,” returning coach Zak Beer told Rugby News.

“This group has an incredibly high ceiling and I think it’s important that we continue to evolve and add further layers to our game to help us get there.

“We want to evolve the way we play with and without the ball. We also want to use a lot more scenario based training to help condition all of our players to make better decisions in those pressure situations in games.

“We’ve learnt a lot from not only the games we lost this year, but also the tight games we won and there are some key themes there to work on.

“I also think we need to continue to build our depth. We were probably two deep at most positions this year, but I think you need to be three or four deep right across the park to win a competition like the Shute Shield these days.”


“I think we’ve got a good recipe at the club. All the major components of the program are there,” departing coach Ben McCormack told Rugby News.

“We just need to tweak things to try and get 5% more out of each part of our game.

“I do think we need to look at our lineout and maul set up and potentially put in a bit more work there.

“It’s only tweaks though because the program is in excellent shape. Looking at who we have coming into colts and some of the players moving from colts to grade, I think Randwick will continue to be very competitive.”

Southern Districts

“We’re embracing a bit of a fresh start at the club after a tough season because we know we’ve got a lot of good people here,” returning Director of Rugby Matt Barr said.

“We need to get back to our DNA though and rediscover what we were known for as a club.

“We were a hard nosed, blue collar, tough rugby club and our opposition never liked travelling down to Forshaw because they knew they were in for a tough day. They also knew that when we were coming to their place, that we’d be up for the challenge.

“That will certainly be the mantra moving forward through the off season and into the pre season.”

Sydney University

“It’s an amazing rugby club and I really enjoyed my year there. I think they’ll continue with more of the same,” departing coach Sean Hedger told Rugby News.

“Culture is an overused word in sport, but the culture that exists at that club, it existed long before I got there and it’ll be there long after I’ve left.

“It’s a culture of winning and I think it’s very true that culture is the sum of your behaviours.

“All of their behaviours and all of their actions are based on what has led them to success in the past and what they understand they need to do to be successful again. The older players are very conscious of passing those lessons on to the younger players so that they know what they’ll need to do to be successful in the future as well.

“How they train, how they review, how they prepare, how they act on game day. It’s all based on the club’s past success and winning and it’s pretty infectious.”

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“We just need to continue to work hard. I think there is a really good foundation there in terms of how we want to play our footy. Retention of the current playing group is a huge focus because we want to build on that good consistency and have some continuity within the group,” returning coach Mike Ruthven said.

“We’ll look to get the large majority of the playing group back and then we’ll  look at a few areas that we might need to fill from elsewhere.

“We then need to turn up at preseason with a strong mindset to work hard so that we get to round one fit, firing and ready to play good rugby.”

West Harbour

“I think the club needs to recruit a few good, hard-working locks and a good No.10. There are a lot of really good rugby players right across the club but we were missing a few big locks this year,” departing coach Joe Barakat said.

“Hopefully Paddy McBryde comes back from Wales and hopefully a few others that left the club will also return. Guys like Jordan Sharp and others, hopefully they’ll realise that the club has changed and there are the right coaches at West Harbour now to help them be aspirational.

“Hopefully Jack Debreczeni can come back when he’s not playing at the Brumbies and play with West Harbour as much as possible. He’s been told he doesn’t need to play club rugby in Canberra.

“If the boys can continue to play the way we played towards the end of the season, I think they’ll be a real force to be reckoned with in the years to come.”

Western Sydney 

“Moving into our second season as a group, we all now know what we need to do to be successful in this competition,” returning coach Sailosi Tagicakibau said.

“We managed to win against the two grand finalists in Gordon and Sydney Uni, so that shows we can match it with the best

“Now we need to find a way to play like that week in, week out and that probably starts at training and in our work off the field.

“I think we were the first club to start preseason on November 1 and we had a really good turn out with lots of players eager to put in the work.

“The hunger is really there right across the club. Our second grade side just fell short in the finals, our fourth grade side made the playoffs as well and our women’s side had a great season as well.

“We know we’ve got the talent and the potential, now we’ve just got to work hard to become more consistent.”

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