2020 JR Henderson Shield GF: Meet the Teams – Gordon
Gordon’s injured 3rd Grade captain Andrew Chapman runs the rule over the reigning Premiers season so far, and captain for the day Hugh Cropley takes us through the starting XV for tomorrow’s JR Henderson Shield grand final rematch against Sydney University…
The 2020 season has without doubt been unlike any other season, and with only nine teams competing in the competition this year the squad knew there were going to be plenty of obstacles to get through if indeed 3rds were going to defend their title. With that being said, the message all the way through the extended pre-season was that 3rds were only setting their sights on defending the title, and nothing less was in our minds.
3rd Grade saw the return of Tony Dempsey, Brett O’Neill and Phil Scarr as coaches, with the addition of club legend Michael Spalding to take charge of the scrums. This coaching group has amassed over 1,000 games collectively for the club, and their passion and commitment to Gordon over the last 30 years is driving the turnaround of the club’s poor performances over the last decade.
Compared to other clubs, this coaching group was able to retain the majority of the 2019 lower grade squad, and bring in the 2019 colts cohort to have sufficient numbers to comfortably allow the club to even field a 5th Grade side. This was a luxury that very few Shute Shield clubs had.
For a lot of the squad, the season kicked off with a highly intense and hugely beneficial pre-season tour to the United States, where we were doing our part as rugby citizens to grow the game as we prepared for the 2020 season. A lot of training and pre-season bronco records were smashed to pieces up and down the streets and fields of the US, and with the foundations in place we were ready for round one.
In the first three games of the year Gordon disposed of Eastern Suburbs in round one – dominating them at every set-piece of the game, before moving onto complete the beaches sweep over Warringah and Manly in successive weeks. These games really laid the platform for the year, especially the win over last year’s semi-finalists Warringah.
The next game against Randwick was a big learning curve for the team, and the new additions quickly realised that being off the pace against any team can lead to a loss. That was evident as we went down to a team we had defeated only a few weeks prior in a ‘friendly’ match. The loss really lit a fire in the team, and the next two weeks delivered sizeable wins for Gordon as we raised the bat for a quick nod to the crowd, racking up the half century against a Norths outfit that looked ready for the season to be over already.
The final three games of the year were some of the toughest the team had faced all year, including a 2019 Grand Final rematch against Sydney University that also happened to be a dress rehearsal for tomorrow’s Grand Final. Easily the toughest game of the year, the squad turned on a great performance to edge out Uni once more, and the post-game feeling was that we knew the two teams would cross paths again.
With the competition rounds over the semi-final brought us back to Randwick, who were the only team we had lost against in the regular season. With everything on the line, the team was led by some great attacking play by the backs to end Randwick’s season and move into the Grand Final against Uni.
It is definitely is the best two teams in the 3rd Grade competition competing against each other. Uni will hold nothing back and will be desperate to turn around last year’s result. Whilst we will be looking to leave it all out on the field in an attempt to complete historical back-to-back Premierships for the club, which will be a truly significant achievement for the playing group.
The player to watch this weekend for Gordon is Erik Moss. As the hard-hitting and physically dominant figure on the field, he will be looking to taste his first Premiership success at the club after 10 long years of service.
All photos by Andrew Quinn
1. ROB LACINSKI: Rob ‘Wayne Gretzky’ Lacinksi is one of the returning players from last year’s Premiership team. Now in his sixth year at the club, Rob is beginning to fine tune the dark arts of scrummaging. Is Rob smart? Not really. Does he listen at training? Not really. Can Rob Scrum? Bloody oath he can.
2. NICK OLIVE: ‘Nol’ has recently joined the team over the last month, and as club captain this year he’s taken his leadership to new levels. After playing Randwick, he had half the Randwick 1st Grade team at his place for kick-ons. We hope to see this sort of leadership come Saturday.
3. HUGH CROPLEY (c): It’s often said that the most important position in any team is the tighthead prop, with the second most important position the reserve tighthead prop. Thank God for Crop’s sake as all he offers is scrums, scrums and more scrums. You won’t see much work rate around the field, but you’ll see plenty of energy from this week’s skipper come scrum time. Along with Erik Moss and Andrew ‘Chappo’ Chapman, ‘Crop’ has been at Gordon for over 10 years. Their experience will be vital this weekend in defending the JR Henderson Shield.
4. TOM LEAVER: ‘Tea Leaves’ comes into the side this week following an injury to ‘Chappo’. A schoolboy hero, Tom still has his Facebook, Tinder, Bumble and Instagram profile pictures of him taking the winning intercept try for Joeys against Riverview back in 2014. We hope to see more of these schoolboy heroics this weekend.
5. NICK JANSEN: ‘Janso’ has performed really well this year in his first year of grade after being a star for the Gordon Colts team over the last two years. ‘Janso’ is close to being the heaviest second rower in the comp, with a move back into the front row likely in 2021.
6. HUNTA CAMPBELL: Hunta has the worst fashion sense in the whole competition. An ambassador for ‘Champion’ clothing, he is stuck wearing clothes from the early 2000’s. Thank God his rugby ability is way better than his fashion choices.
7. HARRY TURNER: The former Eastwood child prodigy once saw himself as the next Hugh Perrett. Having made the move to Chatswood Oval he now sees himself as a 5ft 8in version of Jack Dempsey. Expect a big game from Harry this weekend both on and off the field.
8. JAHMIN GERNHOEFER: ‘Jah’ moved down from Queensland last year to experience Shute Shield rugby. Not only did he win a Premiership with the 3rd Grade side, he’s also started a new family of his own! We wish ‘Jah’ all the best this weekend, and for his future family.
9. PATRICK FA’APOI: Patrick is a new addition to the Gordon lower grade squad this year, and is a dynamic player who is blessed with all the skills a halfback could ever need. Pat has a bullet pass, a pinpoint kick, and runs as hard as any halfback in the competition. Built in the same stature as an off season Piri Weepu/Shane Warne, he has guided 3rd Grade around the competition all year, and his mindset at all training session has helped the team lift for the big occasions.
10. JAMES DAINTON: James is the director of the team at number 10, and has been playing some of his best footy this season. His game management has been a feature as he has controlled the field position and speed of all the matches this season, and this will be crucial to Gordon bringing home the win in the big dance. Look for James’ chunkier (and better looking) younger brother Matt to come on later in the game, to form a dynamic partnership that has led to assists and conversions all over Sydney for many years.
11. HONE EDWARDS: Hone is one of the up-and-coming Gordon talents, and a graduate of last year’s Colts program. He is a supremely skilful and fast outside back that will be looking to add to his try tally this weekend. Our goal-kicker and top points-scorer for the year has been one of the teams most reliable and consistent players, and can always be counted on in the big moments to put the team in front having iced multiple games this year with his golden boot.
12. ERIK MOSS: This man has tartan running through his veins, and is the heart and soul of the 3rd Grade team. Erik is a leader for the team in attack, defence and off the field, and has been outstanding in the centres this season. Able to play anywhere in the backline, he has been a real asset to the team this year. Mossy loves a Shane Webcke like hit-up and is lethal from broken play all over the field, and his ability to get over the gain line this weekend will be a huge factor in leading the team to victory. Erik is the most experienced player in the team, and his veteran status started to be forged while many of the other players were still in primary school. A true warrior, his career has now spanned over three separate decades at the club.
13. KURTIS QUINN: A long-standing member of the Gordon lower grades, Quinny has really come into his own this season and is playing some of his best rugby. A quiet achiever, Quinny has built his supreme form on a monster pre-season, in which he led chin first and then shoulder first into every collision since November, and is the primary reason for Gordon’s competition-leading defensive record. He is just as devastating with ball in hand and it will be no surprise to see him cross this line this weekend. Forever in his brother’s shadow (Aussie 7’s player Brandon), hopefully this weekend Kurtis will be able to finally gain some respect at the family dinner table.
14. SAM METE: Mete possesses genuine x-factor, and it’s always part of the game plan to make sure he gets loads of opportunities with the ball. One of the paciest outside backs in the competition he is almost impossible to stop when in full flight, and is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. A naturally physical player, look for Mete to be front and centre in all the collisions throughout the game, and throughout the entire weekend of action.
15. ALEX BARKER: The unofficial ‘Skip’ of the backline defensive unit, Barks has shifted positions in season 2020 and built a sensational year at fullback. The king of counter-attack has been the starting point for many of the teams highlight reel tries this season, and he will be looking to continue showcasing his own natural flare and talent in the Grand Final. Known for being one of the more aggressive defenders in the team, look out for some big hits to come on Saturday as Skip will be looking to capitalise on any Uni error that comes his way.
ANDREW CHAPMAN: Unfortunately, the skipper of the side won’t be able to take the field this weekend following a serious bicep injury suffered last week. The team will miss Chappo’s leadership and barnstorming carries, which have developed over three decades at Gordon. A John Eales-like figure – Chappo’s lineout prowess will be strongly filled by his protégé, Tom Leaver.