Shute Shield: Norths’ recruits stick around and are ready to reap rewards

By Mark Cashman

Northern Suburbs have been blessed in recent years with a stable roster of talent but at the end of 2019 it was time to bolster some areas of need.

The back end of last season didn’t look pretty and it culminated with Norths crashing out in the second week of the finals, not having won a game since their 25-10 win over Warringah in Round 14.

The wash up was a decision to bolster the first grade side up front and recruit in some other positions with the club unlikely to see much of premiership skipper Will Miller (Brumbies) and Hugh Sinclair (Waratahs).

That has seen four props – German Haeffeli (Argentina), Ryan Lomas (Ireland), Dweald Dekker (South Africa) and Isaac Cavu (WA) – join the club along with a talented hooker from New Zealand, Vyron Smith.

They have been joined by another South African in Heinrich Brendal, a backrower with good ball carrying ability.

The backs haven’t been neglected with Max Burey, the younger brother of centre Harry, joining the club after a couple of seasons with Wests Tigers in the National Rugby League, along with James McKinney, a flyhalf from Ireland.

Angus Sinclair, the starting No.10 in Simon Cron’s premiership side of 2016, is also back in the frame after a year with Toyota Verblitz in Japan.

Norths head coach Earl Va’a has spent the Covid-19 lockdown with family in New Zealand and co-ordinated much of the club’s preparations for this season like many businesses, via Zoom meetings and WhatsApp loops.

“A lot of other clubs imports have headed home through this period, and you can understand that, but all our guys have stuck around and tried to make the best of a difficult situation,” Va’a said.

“It would be great to reward those guys by playing some good rugby and winning a few games.

“Our coaching co-ordinator Zak Beer and forwards coach Sape Misa along with second grade coaches matt Gordon and Michael Smith as well as S and C boss Gavin Aquilina have done much of the heavy lifting to keep things ticking over.

“In recent weeks they have been able to train in groups of 10 and that moved to groups of 20 over the weekend so we have been figuring out new ways to do things as we have gone along.

“It’s been difficult not being able to talk to guys face to face and shake their hands but what can you do.

“You’ve just got to do what you think is best and then move forward. 

“This time has also shown us that there are other ways to do our coaching particularly in the review and analysis areas of our game weeks and that is a good thing.”

Va’a expects to be back in Australia towards the end of this week and ready for the start of contact training which has been cleared for July 1.

Indications are that the first round of the Shute Shield will kick off on July 25 after a number of weeks of contact work and at least one trial.