Shute Shield: Marlins new boss says they have been operating at only 70 percent

By MARK CASHMAN

New head coach Matt McGoldrick has been in and around the Manly Marlins for much of his life so his opinion is one that should be valued.

And when he says that the Marlins have been operating at 70 percent for much of the past couple of years it’s one of those moment when you sit back and think a little more deeply about the intricate living organism that a rugby club can be.

“Historically we have been a bit of ‘churn’ club with players coming in at the top end and moving on, but at the start of this season we took the view that we needed to have a major reset with that philosophy” McGoldrick, who will be assisted by former Wallaby Julian Huxley in 2020, said.

“We haven’t chased anyone to be a playing saviour and we have stressed to our coaches that they have to work with their teams as if no one is coming over the hill.

“They have to challenge them to be the best they can be. Coach them hard and make sure the environment is as enjoyable as it can be.

“I wanted to get Manly people back involved at the club – guys who are there for the right reasons.

“That sometimes doesn’t happen for a number of reason but I’m getting a good feeling about where we are as a club and in our community.”

Consequently the Marlins’ playing roster has remained pretty stable from what the club rolled out in 2019.

Talented No.10 Sam Lane is in good shape and keen for some rugby, while Dan Alley who rolled out at the back end of last season is about and working hard along with regulars like Harry Bergelin, USA Eagles squad hooker James Hilderbrand and prop Sio Tatola.

Dennis Pili-Gitau though is the big in for McGoldrick. He played a little bit last season but was mentally stale after 18 straight months of rugby in France and in Australia.

The focus through the summer for the Marlins was to work on what they did have and get them to put on some good weight.

“I think we gave Uni about 100kg across the board (pack) in that semi-final last year at Uni and at the back end of any season you just can’t do that and expect to compete for 80 minutes,” McGoldrick said.

“There have been some good gains in this area and they have remained well through the lockdown period under the guidance of of our S&C boss James ‘J Train’ Brodie.

“‘Train’ is one of the best in the business and my point of view I have just concentrated on getting out of his way and letting him get on with what he does best – something that hasn’t always happened in recent times.”

McGoldrick is of the opinion that a good scrum will be essential if you want to compete with Sydney Uni comes finals times.

And to that effect there are a number of good big boppers at the club starting with Tatola continuing with Davidson and rounding out with Gunz Fuavo, Kiernan Rabie, Ivan Fepuleai and Alex Westgarth

The Marlins have been lucky through the Covid-19 period with guys like Conor Davidson (prop at Leeds) and Van Stewart (lock at Houston in MLR) coming back from overseas contract to link up with the club again.

They have lost young inside back Jack Walsh to Exeter in the English premiership but the fact that many of the players mentioned have played a hell of a lot of rugby together will be a plus in the sprint that will be the Shute Shield in 2020.

“I think ‘Laney’ and Dennis have played something like 70 first grade games together so from a coaching point of view we won’t be educating them on how to play, it will all be about getting better,” McGoldrick added.

The mission too will be all about bringing through a talented crop through from the colts system to the higher grades.

Max Douglas played a handful of first grade games last year and was the best player on the field when the Marlins beat Uni last year at Univeristy, while the names Yool Yool, Harry Hayward, Hunter Ward, a No.8, and lock Ben Wood should be more familiar to Village Green regulars before the end of 2020.

Their season kicks off against the Western Sydney Two Blues and continues at a hectic pace in Round Two against Sydney Uni.

“I know when we play the Rats but beyond that it has pretty much been just concentrating on the job at hand and making sure the players get better every time we come together,” McGoldrick said.