From the sheds… Eastwood v Warringah
EASTWOOD 47 (Mark Nawaqanitawase 3, Matt Gonzalez 2, Pat Sio, Fabian Goodall tries; Tane Edmed 6 cons) defeated WARRINGAH 21 (Boyd Killingworth, Josh Holmes, Harry Brown tries; Ben Marr 3 cons) HT 21-7 at TG Millner
Warringah headed to TG Millner Field last Saturday with their finals hopes hanging by a tenuous thread. Needing a bonus-point win they were still dependant on scorelines elsewhere to take their interests into the final week of the regular season, and after dominating territory for the opening quarter to stand at 7-all things were looking positive.
But conceding a try right after they had just crossed the chalk was a body blow from which they simply couldn’t recover, Eastwood going up through the gears in fine style to rack up a 47-21 win, with flyhalf Tane Edmed pulling the strings for Mark Nawaqanitawase and Matt Gonzalez to finish off with five tries between them.
Behind the Ruck headed to the sheds for some post-match reaction from both camps…
Ben Batger (Eastwood head coach):
“I thought we had a slow start. They were very good at the breakdown and we turned over too much ball in our ‘C’ zone. But to their credit the boys really adapted to that and limited Boyd Killingworth, and when we held the ball we scored forty-seven points, so it was a good performance in the end. They went hard at our breakdown and it’s always a bit of a fine line because you’ll get some fifty-fifty calls and some went their way and some went ours. But that’s the risk you take when you attack the breakdown, and a couple went our way I guess today.
“I don’t actually know what’s happened to Warringah’s season because it’s a pretty good team on paper. But they’ve still pushed a lot of the top sides and they are a team that can score quick points on you at any stage, so we had to be alert and we certainly didn’t think it was won at half-time. We had a bit of a breeze going into the second half, and we knew if we just held the ball instead of kicking it away and playing into their hands, that would build pressure on them again.
“It’s sort of our game plan and what Eastwood is, but if we hold the ball we’ve got so many big bodies that eventually you get sick of tackling one hundred and twenty kilo boys, and I think it works. If we don’t make silly errors we’re generally pretty good and will win a football game. But also, Tane [Edmed] and Chrissy Bell have been really good at identifying the space and now we’ve got a bit more variety in our game. Eastwood last year you’d probably say we were eighty percent forwards-based. But now it’s more like fifty-fifty with the likes of Enoka Muliufi and Fabian Goodall when he has space out wide, and Lachie Anderson was good when he came on as well. We’ve got some threats in that backline so we might as well use them!
“I’m very big on communication. It can pretty much solve any problem if you talk through it or identify it, and that gives you confidence in yourself and the team confidence in you as a player, and it’s something that we’ve worked on a hell of a lot. Tom Murphy is one of the forward leaders with Patty Sio, he talks quite a bit, and then those key playmakers like Belly and Tano, who are both ten’s essentially, they create a fair bit of noise too. Even guys like Noxy [Muliufi], you wouldn’t say he was a talker but he’s improved as well so that’s been a big focus for us.
“I’m really proud of the club. We’ve had such a high turnover of experienced first graders from last year – I think we’ve dropped the average age of the side by about six or seven years – and in terms of actual football games it’s gone down by an incredible amount. So they’ve done well as a young squad to develop and come together, and now they’re starting to reap the rewards and are playing some good football.
“It’s all about fine-tuning from here. We talk about the detail a lot during the week and we’ve got our framework now, so it’s just making sure all those little things are done right because that’s what wins you games in finals football. We’ve tried to stress that at training and everyone knows that’s what the big scheme is in terms of our structure and our plays, But it’s making sure you do your work on the ground when you’ve got the ball, the clean outs over the ball and all those little things that you can sometimes miss, that’s what we’re focusing on now.
“It’s a bit of a cliche but I think it’s about not actually focusing on the game itself. It’s about focusing on the process of playing good football, and in terms of finals football, executing those one-percenters. I go back to last year and we didn’t do that in that semi-final against the Rats. We had a very good team and we probably dominated most of that game, but we just slipped up in a couple of key areas. The experience as a player that I’m trying to bring as a coach is about doing the basics well, because basics wins finals football games, and they’ve got to know that. I think that as a young player you sometimes think that it’s about the special play. But it’s not the special play that wins the game, it’s doing the basics well the whole time that wins you the game, especially in finals.
“We’re always going to have x-factor. When you’ve got Enoka, Fabian, Mark [Nawaqanitawase], ‘Gonzo’ [Matt Gonzalez] and Tim Anstee for example, we’ve got that x-factor and we can use that because I think it comes naturally. But you don’t want to force it, and that’s the big thing I’m going to have to stress over the next couple of weeks – that’ll happen naturally, basics we have to work on. Belief has really grown within the group and I think we’ve got that nice mixture of speed and power, a couple of old heads like Jed [Gillespie] and Patty Sio who have both won Premierships, and then the youth and exuberance of Tane and Mark, and the development of Enoki, Devan Stoltz and Charlie Granger. So we’ve got the ingredients there, it’s about putting them all in the mixer and hoping it comes out with a beautiful Premiership cake!”
Josh Holmes (Warringah scrumhalf):
“We were in the game, didn’t exit our quarter off kick-offs and general play, and then gave up points. We also bombed two tries in that first half which would of kept us in the game and the Woods were too good and capitalised. They played well and have good players, and we didn’t muscle up and that hurt us. They scored really quickly and we couldn’t come back.
“Their halves combination was very good and then they got an intercept after half-time and it was too much for us to come back from. But there’s a lot of younger boys in this team so it’s good for them to learn a few lessons.
“We approached the game knowing that we had to win and try to score with a bonus to keep our season alive, but it just didn’t click. We are always disappointed when we aren’t in the finals, but we have been engaged and had a big turnover. No excuses but we will build and the club will come back better.
“The Rats are in a new cycle with new players but we have guys like Ben Marr, Ben Woollet, Rory O’Connor, Wes Thomas, Sam Needs, Boyd Killingworth and Tyson Davis, so we will be back and will be better. The team wants to play for our community and club and finish on a high next weekend. It’s important for us as a team to finish with a win.”
Matt Gonzalez (Eastwood scrumhalf):
“Warringah has always been tough for us and the last couple of years we’ve always had a pretty big battle against them. For us, we knew we had to focus on ourselves because if we won this game we would lock ourselves into the top six, while they needed to win to keep their season alive. So we knew they were going to come out hard and we were pretty focused from the get-go. But the breeze picked up in that first half and we found it really difficult to get out of our own half. We kept turning pill over as well and they were relentless on attack in the middle twenty of that half. But getting that try right after theirs put their heads down a little bit, and for us it was the kick up the backside we needed to get that roll on.
“Coming out for the second half we were receiving, and I think we were focused on getting out of our half and plugging it down in the corner because we had the wind behind our backs. It was about getting that next try so that their heads would drop and then putting that foot on the throat. There’s been a couple of games against both Randwick and Norths where we’ve been up by twenty points and just let them back in, so today was a big focus while we were out there to keep going forward and not let the pressure off.
“We have weapons across the park from one to fifteen, everyone’s a bit of an attacking weapon. And when you have someone like Nox at twelve who can get that front-foot ball nine times out of ten when he carries it, and then get it into the hands of Mark or Fabian early, they’re most likely to break a tackle or get an offload away. A lot of the big boys can move and are quite nimble on their feet, even Jed’s got the old legs still kicking over! Ratu [Tuisese] is new to the team this year and he is unreal at getting that front-foot ball as well. He’s light on his feet and can fend off most tacklers and get that offload away. So it’s pretty nice as a halfback to be able to float around there and just pick up that little pop ball.
“It has been a pretty good season for me in terms of tries but as I said, it’s great to just float around some of the big boys who can make a break and pick up a couple off their good work. I’m confident in my ability and in my body as well that it’s going to be able to get through the games, that was the main thing for me this year. I had a really big off-season and worked really hard to build myself up and I’m really pleased with myself and how I’ve played this year, and that gives me a quiet confidence coming into these last few games. But it’s all about the team. We want to win and I want to put my best foot forward and do what I can to help the boys.
“The first round of the season against Souths was a tough game. There were a lot of good players in the team but we hadn’t quite come together as a team, and it’s taken a little while for us to find our feet. But now everything is flowing and everyone knows their role, and today was a really good chance for us to show that we’ve come together and that it’s all gelling, and that we have the building blocks in place for what’s to come.
“From now it’s about finals footy and four more weeks hopefully, starting with Gordon next week, which is a really big game. It is just another game of footy, so we have to try not to overthink it or over-complicate things. It’s about focusing on the game in hand and not thinking about what’s ahead, keeping the boys calm and taking it one week at a time. Next week it’s Gordon, and then it’s the next week and the next week and so on. One week at a time, one job at a time ,and everyone focusing on what they need to do. I think we can do it.”