Round 6 Preview: Marlins wary of ‘The Rookie’
Photos: SPA Images & Karen Watson
Last night’s win for Sydney University over Northern Suburbs under the lights, kicked off Round Six of the 2013 Shute Shield competition. But the match of the round takes place this afternoon at Manly Oval, where the battle of the peninsular, Manly vs Warringah, plays out in front of the ABC cameras.
The most keenly contested, fiery, and intense rivalry in club rugby, has a fantastic history decorated by famous names and memorable games. And while Manly have held the upper hand in recent years, the early season form from Warringah sees them going into this clash one place above the Marlins on the ladder.
There are plenty of potential match-ups on the field to whet the appetite, but the face-off in the coaches box adds another intriguing angle to this hotly anticipated contest.
In the one corner, there’s Manly’s Phil Blake. Now in his second stint at the Marlins’ helm having taken over from the European-bound Tim Lane two weeks ago, the former rugby league legend returns to the Village Green with two years experience in a professional environment under his belt, having worked as an assistant coach with both the Wallabies and the Western Force.
Facing him is Haig Sare, a former Rats and Western Force centre/winger almost 20 years his junior, and now taking his fledgling steps into the world of coaching. But while the pre-season expectations of this genuine rookie and his young side were unflattering, three wins from five and two one-point losses to teams considered as title contenders (Norths & Souths) has left observers raising an eyebrow with interest.
Despite their narrow ascendancy on the ladder, Sare is happy for his side to assume the underdog tag for his first Bayfield Cup match on the other side of the ropes. “I’ve been blessed to play in quite a few of them and probably had more wins than losses but this is going to be interesting,” he says. “It’s the first one as a coach, the boys are certainly up for it, and I think the fact the Marlins are considered as title contenders and we were predicted to come ninth gives us plenty of motivation to do well.”
“The fact that we are sitting very close on the ladder obviously means something’s going well in our camp, and for them to be under us perhaps shows that things aren’t going quite as smoothly as they’d like. I think it could be a real turning point for either team in terms of the season, and both teams are certainly going to be up for it. It’s a unique rivalry and there aren’t too many left in sport, and it’s certainly good to be a part of.”
Manly come in off the back of an impressive victory over Easts at Woollahra Oval last week, and they will be keen to put back-to-back wins together to kick-start their title challenge. It’s the seventh time Phil Blake has coached against the Rats, and the history of the fixture is not lost on the Manly local. “It’s a game everyone looks forward to, whether it’s at the Village Green or up at Rat Park, so it’s highly anticipated on the peninsular. They’ve had a very good start to the season, they could well be five from five and they’re obviously playing with a lot of confidence, and we’re coming in off a good win, so it all makes for an intriguing afternoon.”
He readily admits that his time in the professional arena has benefited him as a coach, and should benefit the Marlins in the long run as well. “I’m a lot better coach than I was two years ago because of the level that I’ve been exposed to, the players I’ve been exposed to and more importantly, sitting back and watching the likes of Robbie Deans and learning. You’re never too old to learn as a coach or a player, and those two years have been a wonderful experience for me. Now I’m hoping to bring some of that experience back to club rugby.”
While acknowledging that there has been insufficient time to judge Haig Sare’s coaching style, Blake hasn’t been surprised by the Rats’ impressive start to the season. “I knew him as a player – I think he played in one or two games that I actually coached against – but he’s only at the start of his career coaching-wise. He’s only coached five games of football, but he’s had a lot of success and he’s building a really good culture up there. I know personally that they’ve put a lot of hard work in during the off-season, and they’re reaping the rewards.”
For his part, Sare is realistic about the challenge that faces both him and his team, but is certain about one thing, when the whistle blows, all bets are off. “I think that once the preparation’s over, it really is up to the players,” he says. “I’d probably say they are the favourites, because Phil Blake’s been a professional coach and a part of the Wallabies environment. But in terms of predictions you can’t gauge effort, and we’re certainly going to put some effort in, so we might get an upset.
“It’s different coming into this game as a coach. I feel quite protective of my players, there’s usually quite a bit of banter back and forth and I feel quite responsible for them, so it’s a new angle of looking at the game for me. But come the match, I just want the boys to do themselves proud and play some good, positive footy. I don’t want the emotion to override the occasion.”
Both coaches agree that the set-piece will be crucial. Manly are regarded as having one of the best packs in the competition and a fearsome scrum, while that area of the game is something that the Rats have struggled with in recent years. Conversely, Manly’s line out – normally a major weapon – has been decimated by the loss to injury of Waratah, Greg Peterson, and the loss at the hands of the judiciary panel, of skipper Ed Gower.
“Ed’s out for a while but we’ll battle on without him,” says Blake. “We can’t do much about that, but we’ve been pretty good at set-piece. I know it’s a big part of the Rats play and anything you see as a coach that’s to your advantage, you target that, so that’s why set-piece will be a pretty important part of the day.
“Obviously, Dave Harvey is going to be crucial to their success; [David] Feltscheer at the back is a very underrated player; their two centres are playing with plenty of confidence, and they’ve got a big, hard running midfield.”
“They’ve got a far more dominant scrum than us,” admits Sare. “And they’ll be looking to use that, so it’s a challenge for our entire pack at scrum time. It’s been addressed this week but at the end of the day, it’s just another challenge the boys are going to have to face if they want to be a top team, so fingers crossed we get a bit of growth in that area. I think the fact that Ed Gower is missing at the lineout will be a big loss for them, and perhaps we can even the ledger by sneaking a few lineout wins.”
“I think there’s going to be a lot of attacking creativity thrown at us, even though it is a derby,” he continues. “Perhaps they’ll play nice and straight and direct to begin with, but after the first 15-20 minutes, I expect their first receiver will stand nice and deep and let the ball get out to the wider channels.”
Asked to nominate the dangermen in the opposition ranks, two players that Sare knows well, came to mind. “Kotoni Ale played at the Rats so I’ve seen him play quite a bit and he’s excellent over the ball, and Tim Fairbrother is an old team mate of mine from the Western Force who epitomises in my mind, a really tough front rower. He’s a real presence at the breakdown and at scrum time. He loves the tight stuff, so that’ll be a challenge for our boys to step up and face him.”
Blake is too long in the tooth to be drawn into any predictions. He obviously wants the win, but was hopeful of a great game and a terrific exhibition of Sydney club rugby. “All I know is that we’ll have a really good preparation, and I presume they’ll have a really good preparation, and we’ll let the boys battle it out for eighty minutes. It all augurs for a fantastic game of rugby. Hopefully we’ll get a good crowd down there, and at the end of the game, the dominant side and the side that played the better rugby will win.”
The last word however, goes to the rookie, and he’s looking firmly at the bigger picture. “I think the team that plays smarter and doesn’t get drawn into what the crowd wants – which is a bit of bash and barge and maybe some biffo – I think they’ll come away with the points,” Sare observes. “They’re Premiership contenders and we have taken on some of the tougher teams already, so if we can sneak a win in here, we’re really starting to see some consistency against the better teams in the competition. which is only going to help our belief.
“It’s a game that also involves the community and the people outside the playing group, and if we can get the win it’s a sign that our players can handle that pressure. Going forward, that’s only going to boost us. Our lower grades have had some pretty heavy losses of late, so it’s great for morale when first grade’s winning, you soon forget about those losses. Plus, anytime we’ve beaten Manly, we’ve gone onto have a successful season.”
Round 6 Team Lists:
Manly v Warringah @ Manly Oval (Saturday May 11, 3pm live on ABC TV)
Manly: 1 Eddie Aholelei, 2 Pat Leafa, 3 Tim Fairbrother ©, 4 Ryan Melrose, 5 Daniel Alley, 6 Harry Bergelin, 7 Kotoni Ale, 8 Dylan Sigg, 9 Adam Crerar, 10 BJ Hartmann, 11 Richard Hooper, 12 Brian Sefanaia, 13 Will Helu, 14 Damien Reti, 15 Marshall Milroy.
Warringah: 1 Ben Ryan, 2 Luke Holmes (C), 3 Wayne Borsak, 4 Ben Adams, 5 James King, 6 Sam Ward, 7 Mark Porpiglia, 8 Boyd Killingworth, 9 Joshua Holmes, 10 David Harvey, 11 Brad Dixon, 12 Michael Adams, 13 Dylan Smouha, 14 Conrad Gillingham, 15 David Feltscheer
Referee: Ian Smith
Randwick v Penrith @ Coogee Oval (3pm)
Randwick: 1 Faitotoa Asa, 2 Nio Halangahu, 3 Richard Aho, 4 Bryce Speechley, 5 Lai Vatadroka, 6 Seilala Lam (C), 7 Tom Conor, 8 Peter Samu, 9 Harrison Boileau, 10 Cayden Matehaere, 11 Timothy Wright, 12 David Horwitz, 13 Terrence Hepetema, 14 Rennie Lautolo, 15 Ethan Ford.
Penrith: 1 Peter Niumata , 2 Kerren Straker, 3 Sione Matangi, 4 Willie Tooala, 5 David Reopoama, 6 Vai Sosaite, 7 Adam Barrington, 8 Leo Burgess, 9 Goege Magalogo, 10 Siaa Taveuveu ©, 11 Paula Katoa, 12 Keori Okati, 13 Fokolulu Taumalolo, 14 Jesse Leota, 15 Wilson Silipa.
Referee: Michael Hogan
Southern Districts v Gordon @ Forshaw Rugby Park (3pm)
Southern Districts: 1 Duncan Chubb, 2 Stephen Fualau 3 Tim Metcher, 4 Andrew Leota, 5 Jed Holloway, 6 Luke Smart, 7 Jono Hayes (C), 8 Lopeti Timani, 9 Grayson Hart, 10 Rohan Saifoloi, 11 Alex Gibbon, 12 Apo Latunipulu, 13 Denny Godinet, 14 Oleni Ngungutau, 15 Ben Volavola.
Gordon: 1 Tobias Gukibau (C), 2 Jim Handlin, 3 Willy Maumalanga, 4 Mark Johnson, 5 Seb Murphy, 6 Andrew Turner, 7 Gordon Broome, 8 Jono Broome, 9 Terry Preston, 10 Mitch Walton, 11 Vesi Tokalaulevu, 12 Tom Matthews, 13 Mark Preston, 14 Richie Williams, 15 Will Shirvington.
Referee: William Houston
West Harbour v Eastern Suburbs @ Concord Oval (3pm)
West Harbour: 1 David Lolohea, 2 Reg De Jager, 3 Vaughan Lomax, 4 Alfred Pinomi, 5 Chris Simons, 6 Tom Games (C), 7 Cohen Masson, 8 Matt Coles, 9 David Osofua, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 11 Tito Mua, 12 Winston Wilson, 13 Alofa Alofa, 14 Macquire Tatola, 15 Dylan Taikato-Simpson.
Eastern Suburbs: 1 Sione Kolo, 2 Alex Walker, 3 Rob McMickan, 4 Keliti Vaingalo 5 Richard Stanford, 6 Andrew Shaw, 7 Ryan Hodson, 8 Pauli Taumoepeau (C), 9 Luke Irwin, 10 Henry Hudson, 11 Charlie Clifton, 12 Angus Sinclair, 13 Apakuki Ma’afu, 14 Anton La Vin, 15 Will Fay.
Referee: Richard Goswell
Parramatta v Eastwood @ Merrylands RSL Rugby Park (3pm)
Parramatta: 1 Nick Blacklock, 2 Myles Hunkin, 3 Chris Seuteni, 4 Charlie Leaeno, 5 Adam Coleman, 6 Evan Olmstead, 7 Rodney Ma’a, 8 Josh Kaifa, 9 Troy Lobendahn, 10 Dan Rawaqa, 11 Damien Fakafanua, 12 Tukia Muli, 13 Dan Yakopo, 14 Moses Tavola, 15 Sosene Anesi (C).
Eastwood: 1 Jed Gillespie, 2 Hugh Roach, 3 Marty Plokstys, 4 Steve Cummins, 5 Mitch Lees, 6 Locky McCaffrey, 7 Hugh Perrett (C), 8 Jared Barry, 9 Mick Snowden, 10 Jimmy Hilgendorf, 11 Nick Batger, 12 Michael McDougall, 13 Tom Hill, 14 Nick Reily, 15 Ben Batger.
Referee: Edward Martin
First published by Rugby News on: May 10, 2013