Shute Shield Round 4 Preview: Woodies Wary Of Manly Backlash

Steve Cummins has been a standout performer for Eastwood in the early rounds of the 2013 season - Photo:

Steve Cummins has been a standout performer for Eastwood in the early rounds of the 2013 season – Photo:

by Paul Cook –

Round 4 of the 2013 Shute Shield season kicked off on Anzac Day at Coogee Oval when Eastern Suburbs claimed bragging rights over neighbours Randwick with a 27-17 victory, but there’s plenty more footy in store across the weekend and no clash bigger than the ABC match of the round – Manly v Eastwood at Manly Oval.

The Marlins and Woodies have been two of the heavyweight sides in recent seasons and both perennial finals achievers. Manly fell one game short of the big one last year while Eastwood have lifted the Minor Premiership three years in a row and topped it off with a Grand Final win in 2011.

Their combined form so far in 2013 has been good, both have dropped just the one game from their opening three fixtures but it was the manner of Manly’s 41-17 loss to Parramatta last week and the surprise nature of it, that raised eyebrows across clubland and left the Marlins bruised and battered emotionally as well as physically.

Skipper Ed Gower is still licking the wounds but was full of praise for the Two Blues’ efforts. “I can confidently say that that will be our worst performance of the season,” he promises. “It wasn’t our day. We missed more tackles than in any other game and made something like 29 handling errors. Don’t get me wrong, Parra played with an enthusiasm that I’ve rarely seen in this competition, they played hard and they wanted that win. On the day they deserved it and I credit them with that.

“The way we played was not us,” he continues, “and definitely not what we will be. We made a lot of mistakes that weren’t characteristic of ourselves and we’ve put in a lot of work this week to sort them out. Against Eastwood, it will be different.”

Manly captain Ed Gower is keen to right the wrongs of last week's performance against Parramatta - Photo:

Manly captain Ed Gower is keen to right the wrongs of last week’s performance against Parramatta

Eastwood coach John Manenti has witnessed many great contests between the two sides in the last few years and is very wary of the potential backlash from the Parramatta result when the two sides lock horns. “Manly will be hurting after last week’s ambush at Granville and I know they will bounce back to be at their best at Manly Oval. These Eastwood v Manly clashes have become a real feature in the Shute Shield calendar, over the past four seasons we’ve split the results fairly evenly and all the games have been a real mix of heated forward battles and some expansive back play.”

With all predictions foreseeing a sunny day and a dry track, both teams will have no excuse for not letting the ball sing and using their exciting backlines. Given the fact that recent encounters between them at Manly Oval have been virtual washouts that resulted in something closer to mud wrestling than rugby, that can only be a boon for supporters and armchair viewers alike.

“It looks like it will be a great day for running rugby, as opposed to the last three years slug fest in the Manly bog,” jokes Manenti. “Manly have a huge pack and will look to set a platform for their real speedsters out wide. Big centre Peter Gilmore has been very dominant in the early part of the season, whilst his centre partner Brian Sefanaia has been in great finishing form. Stopping this pairing will go a long way towards winning the game.”

After losing their opening match to Southern Districts, the Woodies have bounced back in some style, despatching Sydney University on their own turf in round two before putting 34pts on Randwick last Saturday. Amongst many notable performers, Manenti nominates a few names worthy of a special mention.

“Sione Tau has been extremely consistent on the side of the scrum, lock Mitch Lees seems to be getting better with every game and Steve Cummins has established himself as a real hard worker with huge involvements at the tackle and breakdown areas. In the backs the experience of Jimmy Hilgendorf has been a shining light, the ageless Nick Reily is in great form on one wing and on the other, Nick Batger is making every post a winner as he looks to build on his great 2012 season.”

Manenti is happy for the most part with what he’s seen so far and says that a greater strength in depth is playing it’s part in their progress.

“I’m pleased where we are at for this stage of the season,” he says, “though our consistency has disappointed me at times. Last season’s opportunity to blood so many players is proving a bonus now and there is a heap of guys trying to play their way into the 1st grade squad.”

Adding another layer of intrigue to this battle is the changing of the guard in Manly’s coaching ranks that took place during the week. Tim Lane will be disappointed to depart Manly Oval on the back of a loss but can take much credit for what he has brought to the Marlins over the last two and a bit years as he heads to France to take up a well deserved professional post with Lyon.

Nick Reily has been back to his best with 4 tries already this year - Photo:

Nick Reily has been back to his damaging best so far this year – Photo:

Ed Gower was one of Lane’s first signings when he took over and has thoroughly enjoyed his time under the former Wallabies and Springboks assistant coach. While naturally disappointed to see him go, Lane’s return to the professional ranks does not come as a surprise. “Over the past couple of years ‘Laney’ has done an amazing amount of work for the club,” Gower explains. “He taught a lot of guys a lot about the game and we really progressed.

“Given his past experience and his obvious knowledge of the game I always knew he would return to a higher level of coaching and the fact he is leaving is a shame but it always seemed inevitable to me. The club is lucky to have had such a class coach for the time they did.”

Ironically, taking up the reins is the man who vacated the Marlins coaching role that Lane assumed, Phil Blake. Having guided the Marlins for three seasons between 2008-2010, the former Australian rugby league international heeded his country’s call at the end of the 2010 season, taking up an assistant’s role with the Wallabies before heading out West for a stint with the Force.

He obviously returns with a greater wealth of experience and Gower is looking forward to tapping into that knowledge. They met for the first time earlier this week and the first impressions only reinforced what the towering lock/back rower had heard from others. “A lot of the guys here know him well and I’ve heard a lot about him before and no-one has a bad word to say about him. They’ve told me he is very passionate, very hard working, sets high standards and really knows his stuff. I’ve had two training sessions and a meeting with him and I would second all those opinions so far.”

On the game itself, Gower still sees an attritional game up front before the ‘princesses’ see the ball, despite the positive weather conditions. As the old saying goes, the forwards decide who wins the game, the backs by how much. “Everytime we play Eastwood it’s a real battle in the forwards,” he says. “The set piece and the breakdown are crucial for winning possession of the ball and the phase play and the defence around the rucks will be an important battle that will set the platform for our backs to attack. We need to step up in these facets of the game to win. I think we can and I think we will.”

Elsewhere, Northern Suburbs and Southern Districts will be aiming to maintain the only 100% records in the competition when they take on Gordon and Penrith respectively, Sydney University host Warringah at Uni Oval No.1 while if it’s tries, big hits and entertaining rugby you’re after, look no further than Concord Oval where West Harbour take on local rivals Parramatta.

It promises to be another enthralling round of Australia’s premier grassroots rugby competition, so get out and support your local team and don’t forget to buy a copy of Rugby News!



Manly v Eastwood @ Manly Oval (Saturday April 26, 3pm) (ABCTV GAME)

Manly: 1  Dave Porecki, 2 Andrew Collins, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 4 Ed Gower (c), 5 Daniel Alley, 6 Harry Bergelin, 7 Kotoni Ale, 8 Dylan Sigg, 9 Max Wood, 10 BJ Hartmann, 11   Richard Hooper, 12 Peter Gilmore, 13 Brian Sefanaia, 14 Will Helu, 15 Jacob Woodhouse

Eastwood: 1 Jed Gillespie, 2 Todd Pearce, 3 Marty Plokstys, 4 Steve Cummins,  5 Mitch Lees, 6 Sione Tau, 7 Hugh Perrett (c), 8 Jared Barry, 9 Shannin Proctor, 10 Jimmy Hilgendorf, 11 Nick Batger, 12 Michael McDougall, 13 Cam Mitchell, 14 Nick Reily, 15 Ben Batger

Referee: James Leckie


Sydney University v Warringah @ Sydney Uni Oval 1. (Saturday April 26, 3pm)

Sydney University: 1 Alasdair King, 2  Tolu Latu, 3 Sam Talakai, 4  Oliver Atkins, 5 Liam Winton (c), 6 Tom Boidin, 7 Josh Elice-Flint, 8 Benn Melrose, 9 Richard Draper, 10 Jock Merriman, 11 Greg Jeloudev, 12 James Dargaville, 13 Levi Dodd, 14 Nathan Trist, 15 Stefano Hunt

Warringah: 1 Ben Ryan, 2 Luke Holmes, 3 Wayne Borsak, 4 Vincent Wright, 5 Ben Adams, 6 Sam Ward, 7 Mark Porpiglia, 8 Boyd Killingworth, 9 Joshua Holmes (c), 10 David Harvey, 11 Brad Dixon, 12 Michael Adams, 13 Michael Dalton, 14 Conrad Gillingham, 15 David Feltscheer

Referee: Michael Hogan


Southern Districts v Penrith @ Forshaw Rugby Park (Saturday April 26, 3pm)

Southern Districts: 1 Duncan Chubb, 2 Andrew Sulter, 3 Tim Metcher, 4 Andrew Leota, 5 Jed Holloway, 6 Mick Kauter, 7 Jono Hayes (c), 8 Lopeti Timani, 9 Grayson Hart, 10 Rohan Saifoloi, 11 Alex Gibbon, 12 Apo Latunipulu, 13 Denny Godinet, 14 Oleni Ngungutau, 15 Paul Asquith

Penrith: 1 Peter Niumata (c), 2 Ethan Robinson-Mate, 3 Sione Matangi, 4 Willie Tooala, 5 Sione Pusi Fifita, 6 Pita Tupou, 7 Adam Barrington, 8 Leo Burgess, 9 George Magalogo, 10 Siaa Taveuveu, 11 Paula Katoa, 12 Fokolulu Taumalolo, 13 James Umu, 14 John Maumau 15 Wilson Silipa

Referee: Anthony Moyes


Northern Suburbs v Gordon @ North Sydney Oval (Saturday April 26, 3pm)

Northern Suburbs: 1 Nic Curtis, 2 Will Weeks, 3 Nick Lah, 4 Matt White, 5 Ben Matwijow, 6 Tim Fitzgerald, 7 AJ Gilbert (c), 8 Pat Sio, 9 Liam Walker, 10 Liam Windon, 11 Corey Brown, 12 Lachlan Porteous, 13 Bill Meakes, 14 Blake Murray, 15 Sam Myers

Gordon: 1 Tobias Gukibau (c), 2 Jim Handin, 3 Willy Maumalanga, 4 Mark Johnson, 5 Roni Scarano, 6 Jack Dempsey, 7 Gordon Broome, 8 Seb Murphy, 9 Terry Preston, 10 Mitch Walton, 11 Vesi Tokalaulevu, 12 Tom Matthews, 13 Lucas Simkin, 14 Richie Williams, 15 Will Shirvington

Referee: Richard Goswell


West Harbour v Parramatta @ Concord Oval (Saturday April 26, 3pm)

West Harbour: 1 David Lolohea, 2 Reg De Jager, 3 Vaughan Lomax, 4 Alfred Pinomi, 5  Chris Simmons, 6 Aisea Namoa, 7 Cohen Masson, 8 Tom Games (c), 9 David Osofua, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 11 Tito Mua, 12 Winston Wilson, 13 Alofa Alofa, 14 Macquire Totola, 15 Dylan Taikato-Simpson

Parramatta: 1 Nick Blacklock, 2 Myles Hunkin, 3 Chris Seuteni, 4 Charlie Leaeno, 5 Adam Coleman, 6 Evan Olmstead, 7 Rodney Ma’a, 8 Andrew Cox (c), 9 Troy Lobendahn, 10 Dan Rawaqa, 11 Dan Yakopo, 12 Tukia Muli, 13 Damien Fakafanua, 14 Tui Fa’asisila, 15 Tom Woods

Referee: Nathan Pearce