2018 Shute Shield Grand Final: Warringah
All photos by Karen Watson
Warringah head coach Darren Coleman takes us through his 23 man squad for tomorrow’s Intrust Super Shute Shield grand final showdown…
1. RORY O’CONNOR: Once again, Rory has had an outstanding season with a few disruptions, having spent a few weeks on the sideline with cheek and knee injuries. But he’s showed that he’s ready for the next level of footy. Rory has worked incredibly hard over the last few years and moved all around the country to pursue his professional aspirations. It’s admirable and respected by the playing group. He’s now a professional player that’s good to go.
2. LUKE HOLMES: This will be a particularly emotional day for Luke and his family as he plays his last game for the club after starting as a 17-year-old colt. He had a pretty injury-plagued back half of last year, and we were unsure in the off-season how much he would be able to contribute this season. But he’s started every game but one and been an absolute ironman. He’s now played 221 1st grade games, he’s the heart and soul of the club, and it will be a special day for him.
3. HARRY RORKE: Harry was a great get for the club. It was an incredibly difficult decision with his family roots at Gordon, and he’s fitted in culturally perfectly – he’s a no-nonsense, blue-collar worker. Like all young props, he has his good days and his bad days. But this is only his second year as a prop, and he’s definitely on an upward trend. It will be a great experience for him scrummaging against the Super Rugby quality Uni front row.
4. SAM THOMSON: Sam’s gone up another notch from last year. He leads our lineout, which is statistically the best in the competition, and he does it with fewer resources, because we don’t have many jumpers. His lineout work has been first class, and he’s really added a dimension to his game with his physicality and ball-carrying, particularly in the second half of the season where he’s been one of our best in that area.
5. JACK TOMKINS: Jack is what our team is about. He doesn’t look overly athletic, and it may not be pretty, but he just gets it done. He’s good over the ball for a big fella, and carries with every ounce of his will. He’s tough and he’s abrasive, and he’ll either knock you out or knock himself out trying.
6. TOM PREECE: He had a good season for us last year but again, he’s gone next level this season, and I’ve no doubt in my mind that over the last eight weeks he’s been our most valuable player. The physicality and linespeed he brings in defence was always there, but now he’s added a running game, which has taken him to another level. He’s lethal close to the line and scored some key tries for us in the last few weeks from close range, and his attitude to the physical side of the game brings other people along with him. He’s an animal!
7. MAHE VAILANU: He’s got to be the best new find in the competition for mine. He’s a hooker who is such a good footballer that he has forced his way into the team in the backrow. He’s a natural footballer, he just gets it, and his sixth sense around where to be on the field is first class. I’ve got no doubt that he’ll go on and have a long professional career as a hooker, and whichever Super Rugby team that snaps him up first is going to be the winner. He’s quiet, he’s humble, he’s respectful, and he’s a gem.
8. SAM WARD (C): He just keeps on giving and he’s consistent. With him, Preecey, Tomkins, Rory and Rorkey – they’re all big men – and they all drive each other to compete in the physicality stakes. He’s been a perfect cohort with Sam Thomson in helping us have the best lineout in the comp, and every year he just gets more experienced, more knowledgeable, more skilful and becomes a better leader.
9. JOSH HOLMES: Josh hasn’t turned over ball in the last four weeks, and has saved three or four tries in his cover defence. I couldn’t be happier with his low error rate and his willingness in defence. Whether he scores his customary try down the middle, or his dummy and go try that teams know about but just can’t stop, the most pleasing aspect for me is that he is a lot more complete at the moment. He’s in a really good positive headspace, and he bleeds green and white.
10. HAMISH ANGUS (C): Hamish is the cool, calm, calculated voice of reason in the team. He knows our game plan intimately and knows his role, but also helps others with theirs, and in a moment of madness, he is the guy that everyone looks too to keep us going where we need to go. His educated boot puts us in the right parts of the field, and he’s still got some zip in the pins when a gap opens up.
11. EZERA CHEE-KAM: Brother of Wests Tigers player Michael, he came through our colts program and is a great young talent who has got x-factor, great speed and great footwork. Came back from a significant shoulder injury that he sustained in round two and didn’t get playing again until about round 10. He’s forced his way into the starting team now, and if he doesn’t go on and push into professional rugby, he’ll be a 10-year 1st grade player at the Rats I believe.
12. SAILOSI TAGICAKIBAU: He’s at the other end of the spectrum to Esera – one’s a young black panther cub, and the other is a broken down old bull about to be put out to stud after this weekend! He’s had a big year. He unfortunately lost his Mum to cancer, and that took a big chunk out of the middle of the season and left him questioning where his footy was at, and whether he’d finished. But he got his mojo back and showed his worth just a couple of weeks ago, when he had a breakout game in the first week of the finals against Manly. The boys just love being on the field with him. He’s calm, collected and rational, and he’s 116 kilos of Fijian flair that’s hard to handle when he gets going. Although he is retiring as a player, he is going to go on and be our 1st grade Colts head coach next year, and will be great for our club in a mentoring and coaching capacity.
13. SEB WILEMAN: Seb has been in our top three players all year. How he hasn’t got a Super Rugby contract yet concerns me, I just don’t understand what more he needs to do. Week-in, week-out, whenever he comes up against contracted centres – in my opinion – he wins the battle. Last year it was his speed and abrasion that was strong, and we’d get the odd big play, but he’s so much stronger this year. He’s become a genuine hitman in defence, and when he carries into a well-set defensive line, he’s coming out the other side of it.
14. TYSON DAVIS: I’m going to sound like a broken record but he’s another one of our most valuable players for the year. Figuring out his position has always been tricky because he can play everywhere. But he’s found a home on the right wing, and he’s so committed and professional and dedicated. We defend him in the front line, so he makes the most tackles in our backline, but he also probably runs the most metres other than Seb. His consistency has been outstanding, and he’s just a real handful as well as error-free. He’s a coaches dream.
15. DAVE FELTSCHEER: Dave is another of our loyal servants to the club who will be playing his last 1st grade game. He’ll focus on his business interests and probably drop back into enjoying the less committed nature of lower grade football after this year, but he’s been a long-time servant to the club and a long-time 1st grader at the Rats. He had a battle on his hands in the first half of the season to retain the 15 jersey, with Harley Attwater putting a lot of pressure on him for that spot. But he got his nose in front and has gone from strength-to-strength.
16. RUAIRIDH MACKENZIE: Phenomenal talent. He’s a had a lot of physical and health roadblocks along the way, but he’s young and has so much more in front if him. We bring him on late in the game in the backrow and he adds another aerial threat for us. He started the season in the run-on side before injury curtailed his progress. But he’s fought his way back in the last couple of weeks and forced his way onto the bench, and he’s a great talent to put on late in a match.
17. FAAVAE SILA: A boy that came to us via our feeder club, the Hamilton Hawks – the four-time consecutive champions in the Newcastle competition. A big prop of Samoan descent who has developed his game this year. He’s big, strong and powerful, If he stays dedicated, becoming a starting Shute Shield player will be an achievable goal for him down the track.
18. BAXTER KING: Has also gone through his own personal tragedy in recent times. Provides great impact off the bench – when Rorkey tires out, Baxter comes on and adds a whole different dimension in terms of our energy, and presents a different scrummaging challenge for his opponents. The boys get a genuine lift with his enthusiasm. He’s been a great asset to our club this year.
19. EMMANUEL MEAFOU: ‘Big Manny’. This kid, in my humble opinion, is a Wallaby-in-waiting. I just fast-forward two years, and with a little more physical development, he’ll be unstoppable. Having Manny on the bench is like being the jockey on Phar Lap, you just never know when to let the reins go! But if you get that timing right, there’s been so many games this season that have been in the balance and he’s come on and we’ve won at a canter.
20. MACLEAN JONES: Maclean’s decision to play in this grand final having suffered a fractured arm just eight weeks ago, is a testament to not only his character, but how much the team and the cause means to him and all our boys. He’ll be brave and do what Maclean does – he’s a great workhorse. Hopefully we get him on the field and he can contribute strongly in the closing stages of the game.
21. MARK GERRARD: This is his swansong at 32! At this stage, it’ll probably be his last competitive match, but you just never know with Gerrardo, he loves footy. He’s been around the club all year and played the majority in different grades, depending on injury and availability. But he came back in form in the last couple of weeks in 2nd grade, and is another great little ace to have up our sleeve in the dying minutes of the game if we release him. He’s a northern beaches boy, was a Rats junior and has been at the club since day dot. It hurt him not to be around the playing group for the first Premiership last year, so he now gets the opportunity to win one before he goes out, and winning a Shute Shield with your junior club would be a fitting end.
22. MYLES DORRIAN: ‘The Iceman’! It’s rare that mere mortals kick a match-winning goal. But he’s done it three times this year, either on the bell or after the bell, to win us tight matches. Again, we are blessed to have another player with his calmness and quality to be able to bring on in the latter stages of a match, and either close out or win a game for us. Myles has had a really long and distinguished career that started here in Australia before he had 10 years over in Europe, and to come back and hopefully go out with two consecutive grand final wins, would be a fitting tribute to a really good family man.
23. HARRY JONES: Harry has had his disappointments in the last 12 months after a breakout Shute Shield season last year, and the highs of being Man of the Match in last year’s grand final. He lost his Waratahs contract, and then he’s had to bounce from injury to injury. Like Maclean, he has shown a lot of intestinal fortitude to play with the injury he’s got – the reason we play him off the bench is because he simply can’t play for too long – so we have to use him sparingly. Hopefully, he will be able to use his x-factor to break open a tight game at the end if required.
I want to give a wrap to a couple of our coaches here. We’re really comfortable with our lineout and our forward play, and big credit for that goes to Ben McCormack, our forwards coach. We know we’re more than competent in that area.
We’ve got a great skills coach in Mike Ruthven, who has done an excellent job in not only developing the skill set of our team, but also our ability to execute under pressure. So our skills under pressure and forward play are two great strengths of our game, and that’s off the back of two great coaches that have worked on those aspects.
WARRINGAH: 1. Rory O’Connor; 2. Luke Holmes; 3. Harry Rorke; 4. Sam Thomson; 5. Jack Tomkins; 6. Tom Preece; 7. Mahe Vailanu; 8. Sam Ward (VC); 9. Josh Holmes; 10. Hamish Angus (C); 11. Esera Chee-Kam; 12. Sailosi Tagicakibau; 13. Seb Wileman: 14. Tyson Davis; 15. Dave Feltscheer – Replacements: 16. Ruairidh Mackenzie; 17. Faavae Sila; 18. Baxter King; 19. Emmanuel Meafou; 20. Maclean Jones; 21. Mark Gerrard; 22. Myles Dorrian; 23. Harry Jones