Southern Districts 2017 Shute Shield Season Review – With Matt Barr

Southern Districts were the form team heading into the 2017 Shute Shield finals after winning nine straight matches, before their season was cut short by Northern Suburbs who ambushed the Rebels at Forshaw for the second straight season.

Despite finishing second, the loss saw the Rebels eliminated in the opening week of the playoffs ending any hope of an illusive first premiership for the club.

Overview with Matt Barr: 

“It was certainly disappointing to go out the way we did. We had won nine straight going into that game and we had a lot of confidence but unfortunately, we were beaten on the day by a far better side,” Barr reflected.

“We had a slow start to the season and were 4-5 at the halfway mark. It took us a bit of time to get some of the parts of the game that we introduced right but eventually it all clicked and we had a great second half to the season.

“In the semi final against Norths, we lacked urgency at the breakdown and Norths defended really well. It was quite similar to our preliminary final in 2016, we made mistakes and they pounced and turned them into points.

“It’s disappointing to fall short again. This playing group has been together for a long time now and if you look over the last six or seven years, we’ve probably been one of the most consistent Shute Shield sides. We’ve continually been up there fighting for the premiership but at the same time, we’ve come up short on a number of occasions. Every year we review and we look at how we can improve and that’s what we’ve done again.

“We were really proud with some of the stats that came out at the end of the season. We ranked number one in several areas. We scored the most points, most tries, our lineout percentages were great, we were the least penalised side and we also had the highest ruck retention, so there were lots of things I think we did well.

“We didn’t start the year great though and I think that caught up with us. It puts a lot of pressure on everyone involved and thankfully we turned things around. We had some players come back into the squad that provided stability, maturity and leadership and that led to that run of nine wins.

“Our retention is looking really strong, so I think we’ll be right up there again. You’ve always got to look to add players to the group. Last year, our second grade were really competitive for the first time since they won the competition in 2011 and that created a lot of competition for spots. We’ve also got a really good group of colts coming into grade and so far, numbers and quality at pre season training have been great.”

Standout player(s):

“It’s tough because like any team sport, you need a lot of players performing consistently if you want to get results and I think we had that this year,” Barr said.

“Brandon Paenga-Amosa got our best and fairest and had another strong season. He’s just signed a two year deal with the Reds and that is well deserved because he has massive potential.

“Luke Smart and Rohan Saifoloi were both in contention for the Catchpole Medal and had great years.

“Overall though, I think we were fairly consistent across the park. When Marcus Carbone returned from overseas and Dewet Roos came back from the Brumbies, they added a lot. Jed (Holloway) was also great when he had him.”

Which of your non contracted players deserves to play higher honours?

“Rohan Saifoloi has just toured the UK and Europe with Manu Samoa on the back of a number of consistent seasons in the Shute Shield. He’s certainly good enough to take the next step,” Barr said.

“Brendan (Paenga-Amosa) picked up a deal recently and he’s got a lot of strong attributes to his game. He’s a great carrier of the ball, he’s a very good scrummager, his lineout throwing has come a long way and he’s still young.”

What needs to happen at Southern Districts between now and round one next year?

“We’ve already started out preseason and we’re already working on a number of the things that came out of our season review. We’ve got all the boys back in the gym and we’ve got a new high performance coach who is going to change things up a little bit. We’re hoping with some fresh ideas and a fresh perspective, he’ll be a point of difference for us going forward.

“I think we can be a little more physical in both attack and defence next year and the work needs to happen in the gym now if we want to see that next year.

“We’ve obviously reviewed last season and had a look at what happened in that semi final. We’re just looking to make a few subtle changes because we’re not far off and we’ve been up there contesting for a number of years now, we just need to get things right at the pointy end of the year. A few things didn’t go our way this year and we’ve addressed the things that we can control.

“The playing group are extremely hungry and I think we’ll be right up there competing for the minor premiership next year and then we want to go on and win the competition.”

Bold prediction for 2018:

“I think once again, the competition will be extremely tight. I think a number of clubs will build on the improvements they made in 2017 so I don’t know if it’s a bold prediction, but I think it’s going to be extremely close and I also predict that Souths will be right up there fighting for the minor premiership.”