Why we should admire what Uni achieved in this year’s Shute Shield
By MARK CASHMAN
I’ve got nothing but admiration for the way that Sydney Uni have gone about winning their 11th Shute Shield since the turn of the century and their 27th overall.
That came after one of the better Shute Shield premiership deciders at the weekend where the Students came rattling home in the closing stages to defeat Gordon 26-19.
The Highlanders did so well to be there on the day and it should be noted that a number of their stars that were so effective earlier in the finals series looked a bit knocked up. A game too far perhaps!
There wasn’t anything flashy about the Uni victory but it was built on a culture at Camperdown that thrives on hard work and attention to detail.
Skipper Jack McCalman spoke about this after the game and in a competition that has been one of the tightest on record I don’t think that it should be underplayed.
Head coach Sean Hedger had the cleanest of clean sheets to work with at the start of the season with many of the regulars of past seasons taking up opportunities in Japan, the USA, France and the UK.
In the pandemic affected competition of 2021 the Students were just about untouchable and by the time 2022 rolled around they had lost just about a complete first grade side – and coaching staff.
But Hedger and his leadership group were not rattled by all that and got on with the not so small matter of regaining the Shute Shield they last won in 2019.
They were clunky at times and it must be said not as dominant as they have been at different stages of the past 20 years but there was a confidence in what worked for them.
Kick for the corners and roll tries in from a highly-effective lineout maul was their schtick that worked so well from Round One right through to the big day at Leichhardt Oval.
The confidence in the structures that they have built were no better demonstrated than on grand final day when centre Tom English could not get a clearance to play from his Japanese club.
No worries, next man up and Henry Clunies-Ross stepped in and filled the experienced English’s shoes so so well.
That may have had an effect on the hopes of their reserve grade side in the Colin Caird Shield title match earlier in the day but as they say teams win games, clubs win premierships.
And that is the way it panned out even when the impressive hooker Ciaran Lou blue carded in the early stages of the big game.
Up steps Pat O’Doherty after 70 minutes under his belt and ends up being one of the major contributors.
I’m hearing that Hedger is keen for a bit of a break after working away from home on the Gold Coast for much of the past decade.
Whichever way you look at it he’s left Uni in a better place!
IMAGE: KAREN WATSON