What they said… Eastwood v Northern Suburbs

NORTHERN SUBURBS 44 (Hugh Sinclair 2, Connor Vest, Nathan Russell, John Porch, Josh Noonan, George Murrin tries; Angus Sinclair 3 cons, pen) defeated EASTWOOD 14 (Enoki Muliufi, Dean Doumbos tries; Tayler Adams 2 cons) at TG Millner Field. HT 20-7


Northern Suburbs and Eastwood were both unbeaten going into last Saturday’s clash at TG Millner Field. But it was the visitor’s who came out very much on top, running in seven tries in a dominant display that signals their title intentions in 2019. Check out the in-depth match report here.

Behind the Ruck headed to the sheds for some post-match reaction from both camps…


Nick Hensley (Northern Suburbs head coach):

Shute Shield season launch

Photo: Stu Walmsley

“It was pretty good. Our attack was scratchy, we left a lot of points out there and dropped a lot of ball, but our defence was good. We created a lot of pressure around the ball, and that worked out well for us by forcing turnovers through that pressure. Eastwood have got both sides to their game in that their forwards are big but their outside backs are lightning. So we just made a point of creating a lot of pressure around the ball and if they could deal with it, so be it. But it was good that they couldn’t, and to get out of Millner with five points is always good.

“It was a great way to start, particularly at a ground like this where you’ve got to win that emotional energy battle, and it just takes the crowd out of it a little bit early on. Our defensive mentality was great, there was lots of energy in the line and you could see that the communication was good the way they were moving around one another. I was really happy with that mentality, so we want to make that the standard now rather than an exception.

“We expected a real storm to come out after half-time, and we knew we’d have to cop it for about 15-20 minutes but if we did, we could go on and finish the job, and we did. They scored another try but I don’t think that changed our outlook. We had a decent buffer, so it was a case of holding them out for a while and then running over the top of them. I used the mantra ‘win the game early, score the points late’, and that was our approach today. Weather the storm, take the energy out of them, and get up and pressure the ball defensively. We were planning that points would come late, and they did.

“It’s obviously a really good start to the season, and I’m happy with that. But in terms of meeting our own expectations, we’re still way off attacking-wise. The defence has been ok, but in attack we have a lot more points in us. That’s the plan over the next few weeks, sharpen that attack up, and we will. We’ve got the people to do it, we’re probably just a bit disjointed at the moment with some injuries and players returning from injury.

“We’re missing Richie Woolf, Lochie Creagh, Sam Giltrap and Nick Duffy, so we’ve got a good headache coming up in terms of selections later in the year. The same with the forwards, where we’ve got Nick Palmer coming back from a foot injury, and Andrew Tuala to come in and bulk us up as well. And if the Waratahs want to give us Will Miller or Michael Wells at any point, that’d be welcome too!

“We knew that after the bye we had a really tough month of footy. So we had Eastwood today, Manly next week, then Randwick and Uni, and that’s a really good month to see where we’re at. So far it’s going pretty well, but it’ll be great to go back to North Sydney next week and see a few of the boys as we haven’t played there yet this season. We’re all looking forward to that.

“I’ve never seen it happen in terms of three brothers in the same team, that was really good. Obviously, Angus has been a regular in this 1st Grade side for a while and came back in from injury and did a pretty good job, we got 80 out of him. Hamish has just toiled really, really hard in the pre-season and got his reward for his efforts. He’s pretty similar to Hughie, they play slightly different roles around the team but they’re all tough as teak – they’re a Sinclair!”

Ben Batger (Eastwood head coach):

Shute Shield season launch

Photo: Stu Walmsley

“The opening 10 minutes or so we were down 15-nil, but then I thought we did really well to get back to 15-7. We could have scored another but they ended up scoring and we went to the break 20-7 down, which was probably a fair reflection of the half. But we hung in there in that 10-35 minute period, and I thought we played some pretty decent footy and were the better team. But you know against Norths that if you make an error, they punish you.

“A try that early doesn’t help, it really gives them a boost and it’s like starting a game 7-nil down. It’s disappointing but that happen’s in footy, and you’d like to think we could react a little bit better than we did. But we just struggled to catch the ball all day. If you think about it we dropped the ball cold six or seven times, and I guess that’s partly down to their linespeed, which puts the pressure on you. But if you’re a 1st Grade footballer you shouldn’t be dropping the ball that many times, so that’s disappointing. It didn’t hurt us against Manly and Randwick, it did hurt us this week.

“When we got back within 14pts when we scored off our maul, I thought we had enough points in us and that we could still do it. But again, they scored off another error. They were really good off turnover ball and punished us for any errors, we didn’t control the game at all. We let Norths play their style, they suffocated us, and we fell for it.

“Our backs probably haven’t played enough heads-up football yet, and we’re getting into the habit of just letting our forwards rumble forward, which they’re very good at. But at the same time you’ve eventually got to go out to your backs. We’ve got a hell of a lot of strike power so you’d like to use them a little bit more, so I think we are under-utilising our backs and it’s a case of working on that and gelling as a team.

“I really enjoy coaching – I don’t enjoy days like today, the first two weeks were a hell of a lot more fun! But I enjoy it, and I enjoy putting my own stamp on the team. When things come off it’s really good, and when they don’t like today, you’ve just got to wear it on the chin, because it’s partly my fault as well if we don’t execute.

“It was tough today injury-wise. In the first half we lost our 12 and 6, and in the second our 13 and 14, and they look like long-term injuries as well, which doesn’t help. It’s different for every loss, but for this one given it’s early in the season and the amount of injuries we had, I’m just focused on next week and how we bounce back from that. So I think the best thing for us is to just put it out of our minds, and we’ll just start afresh next weekend with whatever troops we have.

“We’ve got to bounce back quickly because we’ve got to play Uni next week and they’re arguably the form side, so we’ve got to play two tough sides back-to-back and it will be good to see how we react. Even with the injuries, whoever we put out on the paddock, they’ve got to be able to stand up and show a bit of pride.”

Hugh Sinclair (Northern Suburbs captain):

Hugh Sinclair_Norths captain headshot_2019_CC

Photo: Clay Cross / SPORTSPICS

“That start was pretty ridiculous! It’s obviously handy to have somebody like ‘Porchy’ back in the side, but it wasn’t a planned move, and we didn’t necessarily practice that exact play. The call was just to put it on their pods or in between and have a good chase, but ‘Porchy’ came up with a pretty miraculous play and dished it to Connor [Vest], whose support line was amazing and we got the try.

“I think we were very excited to play again, and it felt like during the game that we wanted to keep the ball in our hands and not give them any. Part of that is keeping the ball in play and making sure that towards the 60-70 minute mark they’ve made quite a lot of tackles and been running a fair bit, so you can keep increasing the tempo. But it wasn’t necessarily the plan to run from everywhere, it just sort of clicked into gear that way. We got a couple of early tries and our passing was really good, and that was helped by it being a beautiful day and a great deck to play on, it was immaculate.

“We knew they were a big, gainline team with big bodies, so if their forwards could get some gainline it gives their backs good roll on, and the backs don’t really want the ball unless it is going forward, they keep saying ‘Go again, go again’. So we knew that if we could stop them getting across the gainline or going forward, that we would be in with a shot of restricting those backs – and they had some serious names in their backline.

“It worked into our favour because we were hitting the pods of 9 and forcing them into the pick and go, which is where we wanted it. It was also a big plus to have [Enoki] Muliufi go off for them. He’s definitely their go-to metre-eater in that midfield and he’s very hard to stop in his tracks one-on-one, so that helped us for sure. 

“We wanted to be ruthless at half-time, we didn’t want to stop what we were doing. We wanted to keep our aggression, and keep our linespeed. We didn’t really talk about ‘just keep on doing what we’re doing and we’ll get the result’, we talked about how we wanted to fix our scrum and get better at all the little details.

“We felt like we were dropping the ball, and we did that again in the second half, dropped the ball a bit too much and gave away possession, and let them away with a bit. We weren’t ruthless enough when holding the ball. There was one occasion where we’d gone through a few phases near their line and then we tried to throw a little one-handed offload that very rarely comes off, and you can see that Eastwood were all hunched over and breathing heavily, so keep the ball. It’s little things like that that we need to realise, you’ve got to put them away. You can’t let them off the hook after you’ve got them in moments like that.

“They were chucking it around a bit in the last quarter, which allowed our defence to get right up in their face, and there were a few runaway tries as a result. We’ve changed our mindset a bit defensively this year. Last year we were probably going in a little soft in ‘d’. We could defend teams really well and force them to the sideline, but Nick [Hensley] has come in and changed that. He’s asked us to really work on our linespeed and really pressure them into making a play, make those hits and meet them at the gainline or before it and stop them. It’s working well.”

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