Stephen Holies eager to join young ‘Wicks on premiership run

Randwick - Stephen Hoiles steps Chris Pusi - RMcL

Randwick veteran Stephen Holies says it’s the thought of winning an Intrust Shute Shield premiership with his young Randwick teammates that is driving his motivation in the lead up to this year’s finals series.

“I’m not going to lie, the reason you want to keep playing is to create memories and the best rugby memories I have are from winning premierships. Playing with the young guys in this team is giving me so much enthusiasm and I’m loving it because they are all playing for the right reasons,” the former Wallabies and Waratahs forward said.

“To win a premiership would be fantastic for the club. It’s been a while now and it would be great reward for a lot of people that have put in a lot of hard work.”

The 34-year old is no stranger to the Shute Shield. In fact, Holies was  part of the Galloping Green’s last premiership side 12 years ago.

“We won it back in 2004 with Michael Cheika as our coach actually; it was his last year at Randwick. The comp was different then, we had a mini comp at the start of the year then played a 15 or 16 round season, which we went through undefeated.

“But I also played in quite a few losing grand final teams as well. We lost in 2003, 2006 and 2008 I think, so they are very hard competitions to win.

“And to be honest, this year is probably the closest I’ve seen it.”

After retiring from professional rugby at the end of 2015, Hoiles now works full time at the ARU and is a presenter on Fox Sports. Those commitments and the birth of his third child kept him off the field for the first half of the Shute Shield season, however the backrower said he was always planning a return.

“I’m really enjoying it. I’ve probably only played about six or so games and to be fair, a few of them were average. I knew it would take me a bit of time to get the match fitness back but I’ve found the standard really good.

With 108 Super Rugby and 16 Test caps to his name, Hoiles has plenty of knowledge to share and says he’s enjoying working alongside a number of the young forwards at the club.

“Will Munro has been around for a few years and he’s playing some really good footy. Nick Kellaway, Mark Baldwin, Sam Croke, they’ve all been great. I probably shouldn’t name anyone because they have all been outstanding.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on them, but I’ve said to a few guys that I think they are certainly capable of playing Super Rugby in the next 12-18 months. They all probably need a good off-season, but if they get an opportunity in a full time environment, I’ve got no doubt they’ll succeed,” he said.

“Sydney club rugby has produced a huge number of Australia’s professional rugby players for many years and you can see why when you come back and watch the Shute Shield this year.”

Despite leading the competition throughout the regular season, Randwick dropped to fifth after losing their final two matches and must beat Southern Districts at Forshaw on Saturday to extend their season.

“The core of Souths’ team have been together for quite a few years now. (Sean) Doyle has played professional footy, he’s very good. Marcus Carbone, their captain, is a really strong hardworking backrower,” Hoiles said.

“They’ve got a lot of good players and they are very well coached but we’ve played them twice this year and both won once. They beat us at home and then we won at Forshaw so I think both sides will go into the match confident.”

Randwick coach Shannon Fraser has named an all-star backline to play the Rebels, featuring NSW Waratahs’ Andrew Kellaway, Dave Horwitz, Matt Carraro and Reece Robinson.

“It’s great to have them but I don’t think the changes will disrupt us too much because we had that month playing with them during the Super Rugby break.

“To be fair though, this has happened at Randwick in the past. It used to happen quite a bit back in the 90’s when Wallabies would return for the finals.

“Whenever it happened, it was always the club players that had played all year that stood up and would decide the game and I don’t think this week will be any different.”

Randwick face Southern Districts at Forshaw Rugby Park from 3pm on Saturday. The match will be televised live on 7TWO.