Sydney University 2016 Season Preview
by Paul Cook –
Last Year: 4th
Ins: Loma Kaveinga (Balmain); Saia Tanginoa (Rugby League); Richie Williams (Southern Districts)
Outs: Tom Coolican (USA); Tom Kingston (Aussie Sevens)
Coaching Team: Head coach – Tim Davidson / Backs coach – Garrick Cowley / Forwards coach – Ben Roberts
Captain: Tom Carter
Overview – With Tim Davidson
“Being a head coach is obviously a big challenge and I don’t think you understand the enormity of the role until you’re in it, but I’m enjoying the challenge and I’ve got fantastic support through the club, so that makes the transition that much easier. Given the experience that I’ve had throughout the club, it helps in terms of making decisions but I’ve got plenty to work on as a coach, definitely. The good thing is, you get a chance to work on things every week and provided that you’re open minded and accept feedback, you’ve always got plenty to work on, the same as the players.
“Probably the hardest part is understanding how to motivate and set challenges for the guys every week to get them to perform at a consistent level. We’ve worked pretty hard at creating a bit of depth over the pre-season and up-skilling players in different areas and providing a really good environment for the up-and-coming players to really excel. We’ve unearthed some fantastic talent through hard work and there’s a few young guys coming through that will have a big season off the back of that. It’s always hard to gauge where they’re at without playing a competitive game but I’m pretty happy with where they’re at in terms of their physical fitness.
“There’s also a lot of guys who have now got 20-25 games under their belt and will be much better for it this year. We lacked a bit of experience last season but we’ve got a lot of exciting players coming through and after another seven to eight months of development, you’ll be hearing a lot more about them in the future. The work they’ve done in the off-season has started to create some belief and some confidence but the combinations will really prove to be the difference.”
Key Areas of Improvement:
“We just decided what was going to be the foundation of our game and what did we want to stand for. We used character as the base of our program, with defence another priority and in order to defend well, you need to have a good character. So, we’ve spent a lot of time on those areas and trying to develop young men into players who can make big decisions. As a coach, I guess you tend to want to go back to what you know that worked for you as a player but we haven’t really finalised our combinations enough to know exactly what our style will be. I do know that we want to encourage players to express themselves in the right parts of the field, and we need our forwards to put pressure on through our set-piece to lay the foundations for that to happen.”
“There’s a couple of guys who have really impressed in the off-season. Christian Kagiassis has come up from colts, he’s a utility back that plays 10 and 15 and is a really good young kid. Ben Hughes is another one who struggled with injury last year but has come back at five-eight and is a really outstanding prospect who I think could have a big future in the game. Jack McCalman, Ben’s younger cousin, captained colts last year, is a good young openside, and is another whose future looks bright.”
What are your hopes/expectations for the Students in 2016?
“My aim is to change our perception and create an identity that leaves a mark on our opposition so that they remember you the next time they play you. Regardless of results, that’s my biggest mission but I also want us to produce good young men that can go on and play at a higher level and earn the respect of their team mates. If we can continue to do that and grow Australian rugby that way then I think I’ll be doing my job as well. You need a bit of luck to win grand finals and you need injuries to go your way, so we’ll just take it as it comes and if we tick those boxes in terms of character, I’m hoping the results will take care of themselves. I’ve got to be realistic in terms of my experience as a head coach, I’m not going to have all the answers yet but I’ll do my best every week to prepare the boys to go out and play. I’ll be measured on results of course, but also on what we achieve as a group and if we can create an identity that changes the way we are perceived, I’ll be really happy.”