Shute Shield Colts: Manly the big improvers in tightening colts competition

Manly have been the big improvers in a 2019 colts competition that is a lot tighter than it seems, according to Marlins coach Rob Gallacher. 

The Northern Beaches boys are undefeated after five rounds and sit alongside Sydney Uni and Randwick at the pointy end of the Shute Shield ladder. 

“We’ve been working hard over the last few years to improve our colts program,” Gallacher told Rugby News. 

“We’ve had a good start this year but there’s still a long way to go and we’ve still got a lot of improving to do as a group.”

Several years ago, Manly made a concerted effort to revive the club’s colts program after a number of consecutive disappointing seasons. 

While the likes of Reece Hodge thrived in a strong Manly colts program back in the early 2010s, the best local talent often chose to play elsewhere as the Marlins struggled to compete against the better resourced clubs. 

But Gallacher said that started to change in 2016 and has continued to improve year on year. 

“A key part of it was making sure that those good local kids were coming to Manly after school rather than going elsewhere,” he said. 

“It’s obviously very hard to keep all of them because there is a lot of talent on the beaches and it’s almost impossible to compete with what some of the bigger programs can offer. 

“But over time we’ve started to keep more and more of those guys and as the program continues to improve, I think we’ll see that increase. 

“We’ve also built some strong connections with different parts of country NSW and it’s been great to see more and more country boys join the club.”

Gallacher captained Manly’s last Shute Shield premiership winning side back in 1997 and although his player’s weren’t born to see that success come to Manly Oval, the former backrower said he was excited about the young talent at the Marlins. 

“Max Douglas is playing with the Australian U20s, he’s been a key guy for us over the past 18 months. Jack Walsh has also been in and around that program and has lots of talent,” Gallacher said. 

“Then you’ve got Yool Yool. He’s the leading try scorer across all Shute Shield competitions, which is a pretty fair effort. 

“Hunter Ward has been great so far this year, then we’ve also had a lot of guys that have been at the club for a few years step up into the higher grades, which is good to see.”

After five rounds, three teams are undefeated and six sides have won one match or less but Gallacher said the competition is much tighter than the ladder shows at this point of the year 

“Colts is a hard beast to judge year in, year out because of the high turnover of players so until everyone has played each other it’s hard to know. 

“Then with young sides, sometimes you can get a little bit of inconsistency from week to week. It’s a hard comp to be switched on for for 18 rounds.

The Marlins have a bye in round six and will spend the week off preparing for a blockbuster clash against Randwick then a local derby at home against Warringah.

“We’re travelling okay but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves, it’s a very tough competition. 

“Randwick, Uni and Gordon will all obviously be right up there, then you’ve got a side like Easts who have way too many good players to be where they are on the ladder so I think the competition will really even out once everyone plays one another.”

In round six, Sydney Uni and Randwick will look to keep their unbeaten starts to the year alive when they host Norths and Warringah respectively. 

Easts and Eastwood meet at Woollahra in a crucial match for two sides who are sitting on the edge of the top six.

Souths will look to bounce back from a loss to Manly when they face Western Sydney and West Harbour take on a Gordon side who dropped theirfirst match of the year in round five. 

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