Shute Shield premiership the next goal for XVs bound Henry Hutchison
Former Australian Sevens star and Melbourne Rebels recruit Henry Hutchison will play with Randwick for the remainder of the season as the Galloping Greens look to break a 15-year Shute Shield premiership drought.
Hutchison joined the Australian U20s side in Georgia last month after finishing his second season with the Australian Sevens side, but is now focussed on the longer form of the game and will link with the Rebels later this year.
But first, he’ll return to Coogee Oval and add further spark to Randwick’s electric backline as they prepare for next month’s Shute Shield finals.
“I love playing for Randwick and some of my best rugby memories are playing with the club, particularly down at Coogee Oval,” he said.
“It’s a great club, a really good bunch of boys and they’re doing really well this year so I can’t wait to get back down there and help out.”
While Hutchison hasn’t played with Randwick since 2015, the 20-year old said he’d been keeping a close eye on his former teammates throughout the year.
“The team has changed a lot with the Tahs boys coming in and out and a few players heading overseas, so they haven’t had the most consistent season so far. But I think that is testament to Randwick’s depth across the grades, a lot of guys have stepped up when needed and played really well.
“I was at training last night and they were moving the ball really quickly and looked pretty clinical.”
Hutchison has battled a minor neck injury in recent weeks but is expected to be named in Randwick’s side to play Gordon this weekend.
“I’m not too sure where I will play, it depends what Shannon (Fraser) wants. I can obviously cover those back three roles but I also wouldn’t mind some time in a bit closer at 12 or 13.”
While Hutchison is best known for his try scoring abilities, he doesn’t necessarily want to spend the rest of his career playing on the wing.
“Personally, I think I can offer the most as a ball playing centre. I really like the contact and can provide a bit of pace in the midfield and try to release the big powerful runners outside of me. Obviously I can play on the wing, but at the moment I’m working more towards playing in the centres.
“I enjoy holding up the defence and creating overlaps in the middle with my footwork. Obviously everyone loves scoring tries but try assists aren’t bad either and I think I enjoy my footy a bit more when I am closer in.”
After an Olympic campaign and two years playing Sevens, Hutchison said he felt it was time to return to XVs and signed with the Melbourne Rebels in June before linking with the Australian U20s for last month’s World Cup.
While he said he hasn’t forgotten how to play XVs, Hutchison admitted the transition isn’t as simple as some people think.
“The games are a lot longer than 14 minutes, that’s for sure. The tactical side of the game is also a lot more important and while there isn’t as much space, you get a lot more opportunities over the 80 minutes. It was a little difficult to pick up at first, but I’m feeling more comfortable after every match.
“The quality of the Shute Shield is really high this year and I think it’s a great opportunity for me to hopefully play six games for Randwick over the next few weeks and gain plenty of confidence heading into the NRC.”
Hutchison is one of a number of big names expected to return for Randwick in their run towards the finals with Waratahs Ned Hanigan, Dave Horwitz and Andrew Kellaway expected to play, while Randwick President Bob Dwyer suggested overnight that Kurtley Beale may also need some game time.
While the Galloping Greens are on track for a top three finish and a home semi final in the opening week of the finals, Hutchison said the group weren’t getting too far ahead of themselves.
“I was playing in 2015 when we were knocked out in the first week of the finals against Manly and it was a similar situation last year. We’ve been in those top five or six spots over the past few years but haven’t been able to deliver when the pressure is on, so hopefully we can change that this year.”
At 20, Hutchison already has plenty on his rugby CV but the returning star admitted winning a Shute Shield premiership had always been a dream of his.
“Not many people get to win a Shute Shield premiership and to do that with my mates at Randwick would be something I’d never forget,” he said.
“It’s a pretty dangerous backline on paper and we’ve got a really mobile forward pack who are playing good footy as well, but we certainly aren’t getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll be taking it game by game and that starts with Gordon this weekend.”