Shute Shield: Oh brother, Newcastle Wildfires looking forward to showdown with Gordon

By MARK CASHMAN

Newcastle Wildfires head coach Scott ‘Bubba’ Coleman like any younger sibling worth his salt knows how to get under the skin of his well-credentialed and storied big brother Darren.

So it’s of no surprise that the Round Six Shute Shield game in Newcastle was quickly highlighted once the draw was released a couple of weeks ago.

The Wildfires v brother Darren’s Gordon Highlanders and the campaign to put the wind up ‘big bro’ DC has already begun.

“Yeah the sledging has started already on our family What’s App group,” Scott said earlier this week.

“Darren started boasting about what his boys were going to do to my side when we first saw the draw and he’s just continued on.

“My plan though is to play the long game and ramp things up in the days leading up to that game. Darren’s very serious about his rugby and he gets pretty stressed out 24 hours out from kick-off.

“So that’s my time to up the barrage and annoy him so much that it takes his mind off the task at hand. That’s the plan anyway.”

Banter aside there is great respect between the two brothers and ‘Bubba’ says Darren has been one of his main mentors.

Coleman steered the Hamilton Hawks to the last five Newcastle first grade premierships and the club has appeared in nine premiership deciders during the past 10 years.

“I’ve always bounced a lot of coaching ideas off him (Darren) and I’ve always been very proud at what he has achieved as a rugby coach,” Coleman added.

“He’s the type of guy that can bring people from all walks of life together in a team and that is the major battle in this game – and he’s pretty handy at getting on the phone and recruiting the talent he needs.

“I’m in another What’s App group with some coaches from Sydney and they have always said to me that I shouldn’t be worried about coaching against half the sides in the Shute Shield.

“That’s because Darren has had more clubs than hot breakfasts in Sydney and I know big brother’s best kept coaching secrets.”

Newcastle are about a month into their preparations for their opening round game against Randwick at Coogee Oval with the the vast majority of the area’s best players committing to this campaign.

The Wildfires will field a Shute Shield side, first colts and a women’s team and have been lucky enough to recruit the services of former Wallaby great David Campese as their campaign unfolds.

Campese took the playing group for a skills session last weekend and from all reports is looking forward to linking up at various stages of the Shute Shield with a particular emphasis on rugby skills under pressure.

Coleman is measured about his chances of making a mark this season.

“At the end of the day you’ve got to be realistic about where we stand on the preparation that we have had,” Coleman said.

“We will have our moments and we may not set the world on fire but everyone has committed to this and we shall see what happens.

“I’d like to see the Wildfires given a longer term stint in the Shute Shield – maybe five years – and we could then go about attracting players up to the region with everything that makes Newcastle so attractive.”

There is some solid talent in the group though with hooker Chris Ale, who had time at Easts and Warringah with brother Darren and Nic Dobson, a prop who played NRC with the Canberra Vikings last year before moving to Newcastle, serving as a solid base for the Wildfires’ pack.

Bendon Holliday and Rob Buaserau, who has played at Manly and NRC for the Sydney Rays, Also Nimilote Qio, are some of the quality backs training at the moment.

Add to that some handy ball runners in Seva Rokobaro and Marlon Solofuti. Piers Morrell is training the house down, and there is the makings of a consistent side.

The on field stuff kicks off this weekend with an internal trial which should be quite willing and will be followed up with a trial against Penrith in Newcastle on July 11. From there it’s off to Coogee Oval and the big show.

The Wildfires will play in the region’s original rep colours of green and brown – a nod to the region’s defence forces who wore the colours on their sleeve in two world wars.

The Newcastle Regiment was first raised in 1915 and saw action on the Western Front in 1916. They were known as Newcastle’s own regiment and their motto was Fidelis Et Paratus.

That latin phrase translates to Faithful and Prepared, much like what ‘Bubba’ Coleman would like his Shute Shield campaign to be!