West Harbour 2016 Season Preview with Neil Tunnah

Neil Tunnah_Dan Parks

by Paul Cook –

Last Year: 7th (47pts)


Ins: Taylor Adams (Southland ITM); Francois Coetzer (Randwick); Jack Dunn (Scotland U20s); Michael Fedo (Scotland Sevens); Tala Moli (WA); Kodie Hawkins (Randwick); Justin Marsters (Melbourne Rising); David Minute (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, NRL); Michael Morgan (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, NRL); Wayne Ngaluafe (Auckland, ITM Cup); Todd Pearce (Eastwood); Liam Windon (Portugal)

Outs: Joel Brooks (Eastern Suburbs); David Lolohea (Parramatta); Cohen Masson (Eastwood); Kelly Meafua (Narbonne, France)

Coaching Team: Head coach – Neil Tunnah / Assistants – Mark Gudmunson, Dan Parks, Tai Glassie

Captain: Jordan Tuapou

Overview – with Neil Tunnah:

“It’s year one in a rebuilding phase for the club. They’ve had a lot of coaches in the last few years and when I sat down with the board it was about trying to give the club some stability. They may have been taking a bit of a risk by appointing a young head coach with little Shute Shield experience but they’ve looked in to the work I’ve been doing at Norths, Gordon and Knox Grammar and given me their full backing. Former Pirate and Scotland international Dan Parks has come back to the club to join the coaching team and he’s been doing a great job. We’ve been really specific with his remit so he’s been looking after our 9’s, 10’s and 15’s, and at their skill development and their game management, and with Dan, ‘Guddo’ [Mark Gudmunson] providing a strong link to the past and the players from his number of years at the club and another ex-Pirate in Tai Glassie looking after our defence, I’m really comfortable with who we have on board.

“The big thing for me has been making sure that the recruitment was what we needed. Last year, Joe Barakat came back from Japan quite late to work with the team so the recruitment was quite limited but they did really well as a team last year. They were one of the best defensive teams in the comp and it was more a case of trying to complement what was already there and adding some leadership into that. Quite a few of the new guys approached us because they felt we were a club building towards better things over the next few seasons and they want to be a part of it, sot’s great to have guys on board that really want to be here.”

 Key Areas of Improvement:

 “We’ll definitely have the crux of the defence that we had last year and we’ll try to put an attacking game in place that the boys can be proud of and believe in and that will be the biggest change. The players were quite restricted in what they could do attacking-wise last year and we’ve opened that right up and I can’t wait to see what these guys can do in the first few rounds because we’ve seen glimpses in training and in the trials of what they could be capable of. For me, West Harbour are historically a club that can attack and score from anywhere, so we want to be able to do that but with a little bit more structure, a relatively simple attacking game that can be done fast and something the players enjoy playing as well.

“I trust the guys to make good decisions and if they don’t, we want lambast them, we’ll look at positive and negative outcomes, assess them and say to the players ‘You tried this but there was a negative outcome, how do we make it work next time?’ I very much want these guys to learn how to play the game and make good decisions on the field and we’ve been trying to encourage a culture and an environment where they have a voice and they feel comfortable with having that voice, and that they believe in what we’re doing.”

New Sensations:

“There’s a couple of young guys knocking around, Malakai Tiumalu-Afele and Kelepi Leao, that have come out of colts in the last two years and I’ve been really impressed with the way they’ve gone about their business in pre-season. And if you look at a couple of our new guys from New Zealand in Wayne Ngaluafe and Taylor Adams at training, you can see they’ve both got a bit about them. They’re pumped, they wanted a fresh start over here and I’m really looking forward to them rolling up their sleeves and having a dig.”

What are your hopes/expectations for the Pirates in 2016?

“We’ll just go quietly about our business. I’m not going to sit here and say that we’ll finish with finals footy, obviously, from the board’s perspective the club want success and we’ve got to be realistic, success for West Harbour would be to make the finals and that’s the challenge and that’s certainly what we’ll be fighting for. Second grade were the best team in the club last year, closely followed by 3rds, and I’d like to think we’ve added a bit of depth in there now with the guys that we’ve brought in so we’re working towards a positive season across the board. We’ll hopefully pick up more wins than losses and I’ll still be in a job in 2017!”