NRC Squad Announcement: NSW Country Eagles
Photo: AJF Photography
The fifth season of the National Rugby Championship (NRC) got underway last weekend, with first up wins from an impressive looking Fijian Drua, Western Force, and reigning champions Queensland Country. But with all eyes on the Intrust Super Shute Shield grand final in Sydney, and 20 of the players involved named in the Sydney Rays and NSW Country Eagles squads for 2018, the scheduled clash between the two was postponed until Wednesday 19th September, meaning they take their competition bow this weekend instead.
With the demise of the Greater Sydney Rams following on from the dissolution of the Sydney Stars in 2016, New South Wales has gone from four representative sides in the first two seasons of the NRC, to just two. But while that inevitably shrinks the opportunities of next-level footy for a whole heap of aspirational players, it should also improve the strength-in-depth of the remaining teams, and their competitiveness as a result.
NSW Country Eagles have been the flag-bearers for the state thus far, with a grand final appearance on home soil in Tamworth in 2016, and a semi-final spot in the inaugural competition back in 2014. Indeed, their consistency of performance under head coach Darren Coleman across the four years of his tenure to this point, reveals a winning percentage only bettered by two-time champions Brisbane City.
Fresh off guiding his Warringah side to a second successive Intrust Super Shute Shield grand final, Coleman now turns his attentions to coaching and promoting the very best talent from the bush. Proudly born and bred in South West Rocks on the northern coast of the state, it is a role he truly appreciates and relishes.
“It is great to be recognising and rewarding the talent that we have in the State,” he said. “These guys are proud of their heritage and what they represent, and I am excited to be working with them all.”
With newly announced 2018 Dave Brockhoff Medal winner Pauli Taumoepeau helping Coleman steer the ship, the intellectual property at the table is unquestionable. And the dissolution of the Greater Sydney Rams has opened the door for several big names to shift allegiance to the Eagles.
Coleman’s 2018 squad sees a host of familiar names return to the Country jersey, alongside a batch of fresh talent eager to impress the watching scouts from the professional game.
Tamworth’s Paddy Ryan continues his tenure as captain, and will be ably assisted up front by Yamba’s Jed Holloway, Berry’s Will Miller, and Yeoval’s Brad Wilkin. Warringah lineout specialist Sam Thomson comes on board – he had the most wins and steals in the Shute Shield this season, and keep an eye on 19-year-old Patrick Tafa from Northern Suburbs. There are very big wraps on this promising young lock.
In the backs, Alstonville-raised Alex Gibbon returns from a season with Brothers in the Queensland Premier League for a chance to run around again with his actual brother – impressive Southern Districts prop Matt; Glen Innes product Alex Newsome will be keen to continue where he left off with the Waratahs after a fine debut season, and there’ll be plenty of eyes on Narrabri’s Will McDonnell too.
The nuggety 22-year-old centre has just been named 2018 Intrust Super Shute Shield Rookie of the Year, after a dazzling first year of 1st grade with Sydney University that culminated in last week’s grand final win over coach Coleman’s Warringah. But I’m sure that won’t count against his selection chances!
As usual, the Eagles will be taking their home games around the state, starting with the clash against Melbourne Rising in Mudgee on September 15th. They then go to Armidale (Sept 23rd v Canberra Vikings), Camden (Oct 7th v Brisbane City), and Tamworth (Oct 13th v Queensland Country).
But they get their campaign rolling this Sunday with a trip across the Nullarbor to take on many people’s favourites to take out the competition – Western Force. Kick-off is 3pm AEST, and will also be shown live on FoxSports.
Video courtesy of Rugby AU
NSW COUNTRY EAGLES 2018 SQUAD
FORWARDS: Charlie Abel (Manly); Nick Champion de Crespigny (Sydney University); Matt Gibbon (Southern Districts); Jed Holloway (Southern Districts/NSW Waratahs); Tom Horton (Sydney University); Alex Humfrey (Manly); Harry Johnson-Holmes (Sydney University/NSW Waratahs); Robert Lagudi (Eastwood); Emmanuel Meafou (Warringah); Will Miller (Northern Suburbs); Patrick Ryan (c) (Sydney University); Tom Staniforth (Eastern Suburbs/NSW Waratahs); Rory Suttor (Sydney University); Patrick Tafa (Northern Suburbs); Chris Talakai (Sydney University); Sam Thomson (Warringah); Mahe Vailanu (Warringah); Cody Walker (Eastern Suburbs); Sam Ward (Warringah); Brad Wilkin (Sydney University)
BACKS: Alex Gibbon (Brothers, QLD); Denny Godinet (Southern Districts); Jake Gordon (Sydney University/NSW Waratahs); Jaline Graham (Parramatta); Jack Grant (Eastern Suburbs); Apolosi Latunipulu (Southern Districts); Mack Mason (Eastern Suburbs/NSW Waratahs); Will McDonnell (Sydney University); Alex Newsome (Eastern Suburbs/NSW Waratahs); Rohan Saifoloi (Southern Districts); Angus Sinclair (Northern Suburbs); Mick Snowden (Eastwood); Seb Wileman (Warringah)