2019 Shute Shield GF: Meet the Teams – Warringah
Warringah head coach Mark Gerrard takes us through his 23 man squad for this afternoon’s Intrust Super Shute Shield grand final showdown against Sydney University…
1. RORY O’CONNOR: He’s become one of our most experienced stalwarts, and just been amazing since he joined the club. I think being in a professional program has made him a better player, and in the smaller parts of the game he’s been a huge asset on his return from the Tahs.
2. ROB KELLY: Local boy come good. He works some ridiculous hours and travels some ridiculous kilometres just to get to training. The opportunity presented itself this year with the retirement of Luke Holmes, and I think he’s done a tremendous job for that group.
3. SAM NEEDS: Just getting back into Australian rugby again after a couple of years away, and has been injured for a fair amount of the season. But he’s been back for the last few games and his performance coming off the bench last weekend just showed that Sammy is getting back to his old self. He really enjoys being a new father and enjoying the moment, so he’s got a really good balance now on and off the field.
4. MATT FOULDS: An unsung hero. You don’t hear too much about this man but for someone who’s built the way he is and defends the way he does, and gets through the amount of work he does, he has been a crucial link to a forward pack. Hopefully he can continue that form on the weekend.
5. SAM THOMSON: I think the experience of going down to Canberra with the Brumbies has really helped the smaller parts of his game, his ball-carrying, his tackling and his physicality. Again, he’s a very raw talent and I think we’ve only just scratched the surface of his ability as well. I’m predicting big things for him in the future.
6. RUARIDH MACKENZIE: This year has been one of his better rugby career years. He was obviously disrupted injury-wise last year, but he’s been our main link at 6 and 8 and I think he’s been one of the most outstanding backrowers in the competition.
7. BOYD KILLINGWORTH: What you see is what you get with Boydy. He’s very much a natural footballer, an on-ball no.7, and a ball-runner. He’s physical, and has that natural physique that moulds him into a really modern-day no.7, and I think the way he plays is going to suit the Melbourne Rebels next year.
8. SAM WARD: This year for Sammy was about enjoyment and getting back into enjoying his rugby again. He’s had a lot of off-field distractions this year with work and starting a new business. But I think overall, Sam’s just really relished the opportunity of enjoying his Saturday’s again, and enjoying the group he’s in. The back end of the season has seen him produce some of his best performances, and that showed with the 30-plus tackles he made last weekend against Norths.
9. JOSH HOLMES: He’s our most experienced player, and he’s been a tremendous asset to me personally, as well as to the group on the field. What he can create with his running game really suits how we’ve been playing. He’s the type of player that will keep going til he can’t go anymore, and I’ve been really impressed with his attitude this year.
10. HAMISH ANGUS (C): He’s very composed, he’s a leader on and off the field, and he’s just won a third Ken Catchpole Medal. What more is there to say? This year was about changing the dynamics for Hamish, and having him put a bit more ownership on the playing group and having more of a say in how we do things. Similar to Josh and Wardy, it was just about enjoying their rugby, and putting their best foot forward for the younger group. He’s been one of – if not the – best assets in terms of helping to control the mentality of the group.
11. HARRY JONES: The season obviously didn’t start as well as he anticipated but he’s been improving every week, and his physique and size has come into it’s own in the last month. That physicality is something that we’ve really been trying to work hard on this year and he’s still only 24, and I do believe he is still extremely raw and a player that we can really nurture and grow. If he continues to want to develop as a player I think he’ll only get better, and fingers crossed he gets a really good opportunity in Super Rugby in the next few years because he’s been a dominant outside back in this competition.
12. TYSON DAVIS: This year for Tyson was just about his versatility in the group. He obviously started out on the wing but his combative nature suits him at inside centre, and I think going forward he’ll be playing a lot of 12 over the next few years. We’ve still got to develop his all-round skill game but he provides that muscle that we need in our backline, Again, another tremendous asset to our group, and very much the socialite, which is good. It’s great to have a good mixture of players and characters within the group.
13. BEN WOOLLETT: A young player that’s come through the system, a local boy, and just a natural talent. I’ve got a lot of time for Benny, and I think he’ll only get better and better. If he can continue to learn from his experiences I think he’ll evolve into a really dynamic player.
14. BEN MARR: The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree as his old man was a good player too. But he’s another natural footballer and just one of those kids you’ve got to have in your team for what he can do with the ball. He’s so elusive with his inter-linking with backs and forwards and where he finds space, he’s been a revelation and one of our best this year.
15. LIAM WINDON: Gives us a lot of stability at the back with his experience, and has been a huge asset to our back three this year. Losing Dave Feltscheer last year we needed someone with a composed head and it’s worked really well. Windo’s really slotted in with this group and embraced it and enjoyed it.
16. WES THOMAS: He’s a backrower but we’re moulding him into a hooker, because he’s got that all-round running game on-ball and the defensive attributes that all good hookers have. We’ve just got to evolve his set-piece a little more, but overall I’ve been really impressed with how he’s performed. Earlier in the season we asked him to fill-in that jersey but he actually came in and owned it, so hats off to him for his efforts.
17. AUSTIN FA’AMAUSILI: Another former backrower that we’re developing into a loosehead. He’s built like a prop, and his dynamic ball-running and presence for a 21-year-old are impressive, and I think with the work that he’s going to get to do with Rory and Needsy is only going to make him a better player. He’s got that natural running game but we’ve just got to mould his set-piece. He’s been a great asset to our club coming up from Melbourne this year.
18. FAAVAE SILA: For me personally, he’s probably been our most-improved player. He’s really come on in leaps and bounds from last year as a part of that 1st Grade group. He’s a huge asset, he’s improved with all his set-piece work, and I’ve been really impressed with his attitude turning up three days a week to gym and training. I think we’ve only just scratched the surface with him too.
19. MAX GIRDLER: Maxi gives you everything, every game, whether he starts or whether he comes off the bench, and he has added a huge value to our backrow this year. He gives you that mongrel that you need, and I value having that young man in our group because I do like having kids that throw their bodies around but at the same time, really embrace and enjoy the moment. He’s been one of our best backrowers and I’ve been really impressed with his attitude, more so off the field than on. He’s got a bright future given the right opportunity.
20. LUKE REIMER: That young kid has come along in leaps and bounds. It’s very hard to teach physicality to an 18-year-old, and how to have that mental strength and to be a combative player, but he’s an on-ball seven. He’s raw, and if that kid doesn’t play for the Wallabies in the next few years we’re doing something wrong. I’ve got a lot of time for him and I think he’s got a really bright future, we’ve just got to help nurture that and grow his skillset as a seven to become one of the better players in this country.
21. TOM CONNOR: He’s obviously in the Sevens mould, and he gives us that element of experience. Having him available for us in the last few weeks has lifted us and boosted us, and creates strength on our bench because when he comes on you’re not losing anything no matter where you put him. His versatility is something that has been a huge asset to him but more so to me, because there have been times where I’ve had to put him on at seven, or in the centres or on the wing. I’m really lucky to have a player of that calibre and experience to call upon.
22. HARRY BROWN: A halfback who’s been injured for most of the season and hasn’t had much game time opportunity in 1st Grade because of Josh. He’s got a lot of talent but just needs to learn the game a little more and pick his moments. He’s exciting, really quick, and plays the game to what we need with his ability, and if an opportunity does present itself, he’s one that will take it.
23. HARLEY ATTWATER: What Harley has done this year has been tremendous. He’s obviously slotted in everywhere, and to have a player like that do what he does, all respect to him. We’ve thrown him in at the deep end with a few things and he’s played a lot at 10 this year, probably more than he and we anticipated, but he’s done a job there for us. We put him at fullback and he’s done a job, we put him at 13 he’s done a job, and I think he’s really relished and enjoyed this year. At the same time it has been challenging for him, but overall Harley’s a typical footballer and he’ll apply that every time he gets an opportunity. He’s been a huge asset to our success this year.
WARRINGAH: 1. Rory O’Connor; 2. Rob Kelly; 3. Sam Needs; 4. Matt Foulds; 5. Sam Thomson; 6. Ruaridh Mackenzie; 7. Boyd Killingworth; 8. Sam Ward (VC); 9. Josh Holmes; 10. Hamish Angus (C); 11. Harry Jones; 12. Tyson Davis; 13. Ben Woollett: 14. Ben Marr; 15. Liam Windon – Replacements: 16. Wes Thomas; 17. Austin Fa’amausili; 18. Faavae Sila; 19. Max Girdler; 20. Luke Reimer; 21. Tom Connor; 22. Harry Brown; 23. Harley Attwater
It’s going to be a physical battle, we’re not going to shy away from that, and we know that they like to play hard and fast. Other teams have tried to do that to us throughout the year and we’ve just tried to get that mental resilience to match them up front. We know that they’re going to come out firing, and we know that if we don’t come out firing it’s going to end up like last year. I want to make sure that doesn’t happen, and that what we do is embrace it, and return it. I want us to really, really take them on as well.
The game will definitely be won up front, and it’s the team that will take their opportunities. They’re a great team, a high class team that is riddled with Super Rugby players – that’s just who they are. I don’t want to talk us down but we’re a team that have been together most of the season, and even though we don’t have all the all-stars we’ve done the job we needed to do this year, and you’ve seen the results. I’m confident in what we need to do, we just need to back ourselves, enjoy the moment, and be abrasive.
PHOTOS TO FOLLOW!!