Shute Shield: Morgan Turinui picks the best Randwick team of his time
It’s an argument heard regularly at rugby clubs right around Australia and typically one that can never be resolved.
Which players would get a start in the best XV of all time at their respective clubs?
To add fuel to the fire, Rugby News has asked a series of past players to select their best club side from their playing days.
To clarify, this team is from the perspective of the author and will largely feature individuals from that player’s era.
It might not completely fill the rugby sized whole in most of our hearts over summer, but hopefully it’ll help kill a little time.
By Morgan Turinui
1. Fosi Pala’amo
Fosi played Aussie 21s, then went on to play for Western Samoa and eventually for Leinster during Michael Cheika’s successful time over there.
He’s honestly one of the best players I ever played with and if it wasn’t for injuries, I think he would have played a lot higher. He was good at set piece, skilful, had a great catch pass and could put you through a hole.
When we won the comp 2004, he was consistently one of our best.
2. Adam Freier
This was actually tougher than it might seem because we also had a guy named Nio Halangahu, Daniel Halangahu’s brother. He was a hooker that kicked goals and scored tries, he could do it all.
When Freier was off on rep duties, we were lucky to have Nio at No.2. Hoilsey and I used to joke when it came to Wallabies selection that it was hard to say Freier was the best No.2 in the country, because he wasn’t even the best No.2 at our club.
In all seriousness though, Freier is Freier. He’s the heart and soul of the club and is somehow still running around. He is hard over the ball, good in the tight stuff, he’s got great low body height and is strong around the park.
I’m trying to retire him as a favour to his wife Tammy, but we’re not quite there yet.
3. Dayna Edwards
Dayna played Super Rugby at the Reds with me. He sort of came out of nowhere but was a great scrummager and a real footballer too.
People always talk about the backlines of the great Randwick teams, but all those good sides had really strong forward packs and Dayna was a guy that really contributed to that.
4. Omar Hassanein
Omar is now the head of the International Rugby Players Association but before that he played Sevens and was in all the junior rep teams.
He had a really bad injury where he snapped his leg and ended up with a 25cm rod in his leg. He could play lock or No.6 and was excellent at line out time, a good ball carrier and just a big, tough man.
If his body didn’t let him down, he could have been anything.
5. Dwayne Haare
Dwayne went on to play for Bayonne in France for over a decade professionally. I remember coming back to train at Latham Park while I was with the Waratahs and this guy who I’d never seen before turned up and absolutely smashed me.
I was filthy, I’d turned up for a bit of a run around and he split me in half.
He was great for Randwick, the big enforcer that every team needs but also very skilful. He just enjoyed whacking blokes so I was glad I was playing with him and not against him.
We also had Chris Houston who was club captain for a long time. Warwick Waugh was also at Randwick but I didn’t really play with him. They’re both quality players.
6. Owen Finegan
Obviously Owen was one of the all time great Wallabies. He was coming to the end of his career as I was starting in the early 2000s and I’ll always remember how physical he was. I was still about 20 and we were playing Norths and he and Mark Challender came together and it was the biggest collision I’ve ever seen.
He was a really smart rugby player and knew how to manage a game, but he was also just tough. Back in those days, they used to be pretty rough with some on us young backs at the bottom of the ruck, but Owen would always be there to let you know that he had your back.
7. Lei Tomiki
Played Australian Schoolboys and was in the Waratahs squad for a long time then went on to play in France.
He was an excellent No.7. He was hard over the ball, had great footwork and could beat a man and create space. He was just a really talented all round footballer.
8. Stephen Hoiles
I’d love to leave him out, I really would, but I just can’t.
He’s the most talented, skilful forward that I played with. George Smith was a better player, but at any level, I’d say Hoilsey was the most skilful forward I saw.
He was also a great mate and looking back at it, it’s probably the same at most clubs, but we were just so lucky to get to play with our mates for a club we loved. Looking back on those times on the field or in the change rooms, we were deadset just running around having fun and that’s what rugby is all about.
He was amazing in 2004 and actually got picked to go on a Wallabies tour before he played Super Rugby based purely on club rugby form. He’d probably be the last guy to do that.
Over the years he developed into a fantastic leader. He was a deadset idiot as school but over the years he grew up into this absolute champion human being.
9. Chris Whitaker
Whits was one of my mentors early on in my career. He was the heart and soul of every team or group that he was and is involved with.
He’s frustratingly humble, amazingly talented and had the best halfback pass off the deck of any player I saw. You always had more time when you played with Whits because he’d get the ball to you so quickly.
He was also a brilliant cover defender and a great leader, even though he didn’t really want to be one.
10. Duncan McRae
I played with Dunc in 2002 and a little in 2003 and he was an old school No.10 who could create space with long passes, then direct and manage the game for you.
He kicked well and had a great left foot step which he used really well. He’d pass and pass and pass, then pick his moment late in the half to step and score untouched under the posts.
Early in my career it was fantastic to play outside a guy with so much experience and knowledge. I learnt a lot from him.
11. Nemani Nadolo
Nemani was called Ratu back then and I played with him back in 2008 when I came back from the Reds to play in the finals. I knew who he was but I hadn’t seen him play before and after the first few games I played with him, I was calling every one I knew to suggest they sign him up right away.
He’s one of those players that coaches tried to change over the years but when he was allowed to play his natural style, he was pretty much unstoppable and that showed in his 15-year pro career.
I remember I put him over for a try in a grand final one year. I passed it to him on our goal line and he ran 100 metres to score. I still claim it as a try assist but it’s probably a stretch.
12. Shaun Berne
He played a bit of No.10 for us but also a lot at No.12. He’s your classic second five eighth and playmaker. Solid in defence and did all the little things right. I played outside him quite a bit and he was fantastic at creating space for those around him.
He’s an out and out footballer that could pretty much do it all plus he had a great rugby brain.
13. Matt Carraro
Matty was an up and coming centre when I was a little more established and it was great to watch him grow into a fantastic footballer, particularly at Super Rugby level.
He was a perfect centre partner for me because he’d do all the hard and tough stuff and I’d do all the fun, flashy stuff.
He was a great communicator, ran really good lines and always worked really hard on his game. He’s a player that got better and better every year he played, which I always thought was really impressive.
14. Gareth Smith
We had a lot of good wingers, like Willie Gordon, but Gareth Smith scored over 2000 points in club rugby. We put some big scores on teams at times and I think one game he kicked 13 goals and broke a couple of records.
David Knox was the highest point scorer in the Shute Shield, I’m not sure if he still is, but Gareth was second. It was great to be a part of his last premiership in 2004, he was a really quality footballer.
15. Brendan Williams
I played a lot of footy with Latho (Chris Latham) but never actually played with him at Randwick so I’ve given Brendan Williams the nod. Arthur Little was also a great Randwick fullback.
Brendan Williams was a level above. By the time I played with him, he was doubling up and playing in Italy, then coming back to play with Randwick most years and he was pound for pound one of the toughest.
He had amazing feet and could slot in as a ball player from 15, which always helped.
Plus he could have a big night out and easily back up the next day. Just one of those mercurially talented guys that cut teams to shred at will.
Coaches – Michael Cheika & David Knox
When it comes to Randwick, you can’t seperate the two. They have to come together.
I played a couple games in second grade with them in 2002, then they coached in 03 and 04 and I never lost a game with those two as coaches.
In 2003, I missed the finals because of the World Cup, then in 2004 we won the comp undefeated. When I went to play in Paris under Cheik, I told him I was a little hesitant to sign because I didn’t want to end our streak.
They really complimented each other as coaches. Knoxy is a savant when it comes to rugby, he’s got a brilliant rugby brain and then Cheik has great rugby knowledge but also knows how to motivate you and make you believe.
He makes you remember why you love the game and that was particularly important in club rugby, when you’ve got guys in all different stages of their careers.
Cheik has a great ability to bring a group together and remind them why they are doing what they are doing and he did that at a time before a lot of other coaches were doing it.