Shute Shield: Anton La Vin picks the best Eastern Suburbs team of his time

After reading a fantastic yarn by Josh Holmes on the Northern Beaches Sports Tribune, we thought we’d borrow the concept (with permission) and get players from various Shute Shield clubs to name their best team of all time.

To clarify, this team is from the perspective of the player and will largely feature individuals from that player’s era.

It might not completely fill the void left while the rugby season is on hold, but hopefully it’ll help kill a little time.

By Anton La Vin

1. Hermani Lavaka

The original Tongan Thor would casually warm up before a game with a few sets of 180kg bench press on a medicine ball, before eating the majority of the opposition’s front row. Mike Ross and Aaron Tawera were also excellent up front.

2. Huia Edmonds

Though it was hard to go past Saia Faingaa, Huia had a skill set that allowed him to easily slip into 10, take the ball to the line, chip, chase, regather and put the winger away with a 20m flat spiral pass.

3. Robert McMickan

100 first grade caps is impressive regardless of the number on your back but it’s particularly impressive when it’s done playing in the front row. “Chicken” was always rock solid when it came to scrum time, great around the paddock and even better off it.

4. Adam Byrnes

Affectionately known back in the day as “The Devil”, the man stood nearly 7 foot tall. Adam wasn’t only a menace at lineout time, but a menace at all times during his playing days. Adam Wallace-Harrison was also an asset you wanted in your tight five.

5. Richard Stanford

Dicky was just a solid ‘second effort’ type of player, just like Matt McGann. Both played over a 100 first grade games, and ensured if we didn’t win the game on the field, we would at least win the boat race afterwards.

6. Ed Brenac

Deservingly known as “Pesty”, Ed was not only tough but also extremely stubborn, with even the coaches unable to convince him that it was better to play with 15 men on the field, rather than 14. Tala Grey was also a Beast in the No.6 jersey.

7. Matt Hodgson

Super tough and professional, Matt was, as expected, a dominate force on the field. There were definitely a few sore ribcages after a game against Hodgo.

8. Pauliasi Taumoepeau

A true gentlemen of the game, Pauli was not only as hard on the field as his name is to pronounce, but also a great leader of men. Tom Egan was another legend to have worn the No.8 jersey.

9. Brendan McKibbin

This was a coin toss between Kibbo and Luke Burgess, but Brendan gets the nod for his ability to move a thousand kilo’s of meat around the field with ease. His goal kicking wasn’t too shabby either. Luke Irwin was also chomping at the bit during a game.

10. Matt To’omua

A truly gifted No.10, Matt dictated terms on the field in his time. The prodigal son was always destined for greater honours, which he continues to earn.

11. Afusipa Taumoepeau

Dangerous not only in attack but also in defence, Sipa could change the momentum of a game in a heartbeat. Junior Puroku and John Collignon were also proven try machines out wide.

12. Tom Azar

Its true they build them tougher out in the bush, and Tom the “Tip Rat” was a shining example of this overall toughness and grit. Always the bloke first picked in your team. Anthony Faingaa was also a certain starter in the midfield.

13. Ryan Cross

A dual International, Ryan was an out and out star on the field. A man of few words, Crossy could still make it look easy gliding through the opposition defence.

14. Clyde Rathbone

Rath defined what it meant to run the ball hard and straight. An all-round solid performer, both on and off the field.

15. Gavin Debartolo

Everyone became nervous, even his own teammates, whenever Debar had the ball in his hands. He had the ability to break a game wide open, and still holds the record for the least amount of tackles made during a Shute Shield season. 

Coaches Mark Bakewell & Scott Bowen

Bako is as Easts as you can get. Bleeds Red White & Blue, and a true legend of the club with a real rugby mind. Scott was also one of those great coaches who backed his player’s natural ability, and took us to the Grand Final in 2007. He was also good for a west coast cooler.