Warringah wary of “20-minute efforts” at they prepare for high-flying Beasties

By Nick Kelland; Photo – Karen Watson

They say a week is a long time in sport.

And by they, I mean it is one of the most commonly used clichés in global sporting circles. 

However, clichés generally speak some truth, and for Warringah’s head coach Mark Gerrard, there’s no doubt he’ll be hoping that the fortunes are reversed for his side when they take on Eastern Suburbs in a tantalising round two match-up at Woollahra Oval.

In round one, the Rats went down 35-14 to traditional rivals Northern Suburbs. On the other side of the coin, the bolter of recent seasons in Easts, became the bolted, as they put rival sides firmly on notice, courtesy of a 49-28 win over last year’s premiers Sydney University.

Gerrard says it’s a round two match-up that his side is very much relishing the prospect of taking on. 

“Our mind-set and our collective headspace is really good heading into the weekend.”

“Realistically, losing first round wasn’t the result we were after, but it isn’t necessarily the worst thing to happen. The honest truth is that the group has taken it head on and more importantly, learnt from it. They’re keen to get out tomorrow and start fresh.”

The Rats’ round one loss wasn’t without positives, however, as they showed glimpses of the form that has made them a powerhouse in recent years, particularly in the first few exchanges of their match-up with Norths. 

“Our first 20 minutes was excellent, but from there, we went away from our structures and procedures.”

The structures and procedures Gerrard speaks of, tie back into an attacking philosophy of moving the ball and keeping plays alive, but not at the expense of the smaller details and factors that ultimately contribute to complete 80-minute performances.

“The guys are going to continue to grow and understand the style of rugby we want to play each week. For the new players, it’s about realising that this is more than just putting a jersey on and playing another game of rugby.”

“The structures we are building our game upon are there, and I’m confident it will start clicking as we settle as a group.”

Speaking more specifically about the match-up with Easts, Gerrard was quick to identify the battle of the back-rows as one pivotal to the eventual outcome of the fixture.

“Their (Eastern Suburbs) back-row is a real force to be reckoned with in this competition. Charlie Gamble (Easts openside flanker) was outstanding last week, but that being said, our group has all the talent to step up and meet that challenge head on from the beginning.”

And a large challenge it will be.

Easts were utterly comprehensive in their 49-28 victory over last year’s premiers in round one. Mack Mason, Gamble, and Henry Patterson were outstanding in particular. 

“It’s always tough to beat Uni. Even if they {Sydney University} didn’t have their best day either last weekend, we need to respect where Easts played well in that match-up.”

However, an in-depth analysis of tomorrow’s opponents is not at the forefront of Warringah’s final preparation. 

“I think the more you look at an opponent, the more you drift away from your own structures and procedures. Sure, we’ve identified some things that we can do to gain an advantage, but as a side, our focus is entirely on what we need to do to improve on the mistakes we made in round one, and we’re keen to get out and show that tomorrow.”

As to the key for tomorrow’s game?

“Our physicality.”

“Easts are a very combative unit, and they are going to bring it up front. We need to be ready for that, and we need to make sure we match that physicality for 80 minutes.”

Round two kicks off with the Warringah Rats facing Eastern Suburbs at Woollahra Oval. Kick-off is at 3:00pm AEST.