2020 Shute Shield GF: Meet the Teams – Eastwood
Eastwood head coach Ben Batger takes us through his 23-man squad
for Saturday’s Shute Shield grand final showdown against Gordon…
All player photos by Serge Gonzalez
1. JED GILLESPIE: The old bull runs out onto the field one last time. Has been the cornerstone of the dominant Eastwood packs for the last decade, including the Premiership winning teams in 2014 and 2015. Scrumagging the best of his career and is more physical than ever around the park. Enjoys a chat on the field, whether that be with the opposition, the crowd or the referee. Proud Woods Junior.
2. ED CRAIG: Eastwood’s most recent Super Rugby player having debuted for the Reds earlier in the year after serving a long apprenticeship under Hugh Roach. Has come alive during the past few weeks and been the form player of the finals. Has been a dominant force in attack and defence while throwing accurately in tough conditions.
3. RHYS SHERIFF: First full year in 1st Grade and has been outstanding. Great at scrum time but it’s been his work rate around the field that has really impressed me. Always looking to get better, he has a tremendous attitude and work ethic. The boys know where he will be going for a celebration feed if we win on Saturday. Another player who has come through the Eastwood system.
4. CHARLES GRANGER: Central Coast boy who has come through our colts program. Despite being a man of few words he has managed to become a very good lineout caller. If there is hard work to be done you can guarantee he will be first man to put his hand up. Tough, tough, tough.
5. TIM ANSTEE: Playing lock but could also play back row or wing. Another Eastwood junior who we haven’t seen a lot of recently due to Australian Sevens commitments. Brilliant athlete who looks like Tarzan and actually plays like Tarzan. Having him in the team means we are essentially carrying another back.
6. SIONE TAU: Returned home to Eastwood after six years abroad playing in France. Our own players fear him so I am not sure how the opposition must feel about him. Has no self preservation and throws his body into the opposition in both attack and defence. Regularly wins hit of the week.
7. TOM MURPHY: Has made his way through colts and lower grades to become a respected player and leader in 1st Grade. A tackling machine who nearly tops the tackle count every week. Claims he he could have been a ball playing lock for Wests Tigers if he’d chosen rugby league over union.
8. PAT SIO: A leader by action and not words, Patty has already tasted Premiership success as a 21-year-old in 2014. At 120kg has an amazing engine and just keeps rumbling forward all day. If there is a hard carry to make he steps up and inspires the troops. Amazingly unsigned in Australia despite pro stints in both New Zealand and France.
9. MATT GONZALEZ: Eastwood junior who was part of the victorious 2015 Premiership-winning team. Has rebuilt himself after an injury-plagued few years to once again establish himself as one of the most dominant halfbacks in the competition. Lightning speed make him a nightmare for opposition defences. Lives in the gym.
10. TANE EDMED: Only 20-years-old but plays like a 10 year veteran – cool, calm and collected. Has it all: tactical awareness, a crisp pass, brilliant tactical and goal kicking, and is best defensive 10 in the competition. It’s only a matter of when, not if, he plays Super Rugby.
11. FABIAN GOODALL: Injury ruined his 2019 season but he has bounced back to play every game in 2020. 120kg of raw power, Fabs has the ability to change the game in a blink of a eye. Has a surprising turn of speed for a giant.
12. ENOKA MULIUFI: Been the best 12 in the competition for the last two years. I think if you asked him to run through a brick wall he could. Has added a few extra strings to his bow this year and has improved his defence out of sight. Should be in a Super Rugby system.
13. LACHLAN ANDERSON: Like his Australian Sevens mate Tim Anstee, a proud product of the Eastwood juniors. Tim joined the squad late but has fitted in seamlessly. A tremendous defender who as added an extra element to our attack with his speed and footwork. Claims to have best hair in the team.
14. MARK NAWAQANITAWASE: Still just 20-years-old, this is Mark’s second year playing finals football and he has already played Super Rugby with the NSW Waratahs. Another one-club man, Mark has size, speed, agility and x-factor that can trouble the best of defenders. His leaping ability is second-to-none and he could easily take up AFL.
15. CHRIS BELL: Was playing Subbies rugby last year so it’s been a quick rise for the northern England native. A natural 10, Chris has a brilliant rugby mind and gives us a second ball-player and kicking option. Has revelled in the wet during the finals series as it allows to him to play wet weather rugby – something he grew up with every weekend!
16. MAX STEWART: Plays like a loose forward with brilliant fitness levels, speed and on-ball presence. A Central Coast lad and Eastwood junior, Max will be a massive part of the club in the future.
17. SIONE LATU TALAKAI: The big Tongan international has had a tough year on the injury front but has timed his run perfectly to be ready for the grand final. ‘Latz’ adds big match experience and a big body that can be devastating in the last 20.
18. ANGUS ARUNDEL: Gus joined us from Melbourne club football and lives and breathes scrums. A brilliant scrum technician who works extremely hard around the field, he has has been a great addition to the club and is popular amongst the boys.
19. DANIEL COSGROVE: Answered an SOS at the start of the season and has had his best year of grade football to date. Known for his high work rate, ‘Cossie’ has also developed the ability to pull off a big hit to change the momentum of a game.
20. RATU TUISESE: Former rugby league winger who came to the club as a centre but played his first game as a forward in round one! It’s been an incredible rise and when he comes on with 30 to go it’s a huge boost for the team. Possibly the hardest guy to tackle in the team and brilliant over the ball.
21. JOSH NOONAN: Consistently the best player in 2nd Grade all year. A tremendously hard worker, Josh is one of the best clubmen going around and is developing as a player every week. He provides quick service and solid defence whenever he comes on.
22. DEVAN STOLTZ: Unluckiest guy in the squad after starting in 11 regular season games. Devan is possibly the best defender in the team and a very popular team player. Also runs the best under’s line in the competition. Tough.
23. HARRY WILSON: Future superstar Harry has all the makings of an elite 15. Still only 20-years-old, this was his first year in grade and as a fullback and he just keeps getting better and better the more he plays. Look for him to make a big impact when he gets on.
MICHAEL ICELY: Was one of our very best til he broke his arm in our victory against Randwick. With the pace of a back and the strength of a forward it’s only a matter of time before he plays Super Rugby.
LACHLAN SHELLEY: Another one of our babies at 21, Lachie was arguably the most dangerous back in the entire competition before a broken wrist and broken hand cut short his season. Actually played 40 minutes with both breaks in two different hands – tough kid.
WILLIAM LEOSO: The barnstorming prop plucked from the Newcastle competition was a huge reason for our mid-season charge. His enthusiasm, energy and ability to pull of a big run or tackle was instrumental in many victories. Brilliant team man who would do anything for anyone.
ANDREW CLYNE: Assistant coach – How times have changed over the six years since we celebrated grand final victory together as players. Has got the lineout to be one of the best in the competition and his forwards are second-to-none. Also, anyone that can put up with my mood swings during a game deserves a medal.
TIM DONNELLY: Analyst – Has the hardest job in the club in delivering the hundreds of messages I send out on game day. He has also been great in helping with the development of Tane Edmed.
JOHN MANENTI: Director of Rugby – Always there to bounce off ideas with, his experience is invaluable. Has had to restrain me once or twice in the coaches box.
OWAIN ROBERTS: Skills coach – Makes sure we dot the i’s and cross the t’s during all our drills. Also just a great upbeat guy to have around the place who is always happy and there to help.
JOHN CROPPER: Manager – I don’t think I have had to deal with anything other than football because John makes sure absolutely everything off the field is looked after . May need a hearing aid after the abuse I yell into the walkie talkie on game day – sorry John .
NEIL ‘HORRIE DICKIE: Jack of all trades – If you need anything Horrie will get it done for you. The boys absolutely love him and he provides much needed comic relief when the troops are down.
SIMONE SPOONER: Physio – Our low injury rate is testimony to her great work. She has been there before on grand final day, and somehow manages to keep players on the field when it looks for certain like they’d have to come off.
ANDREW WEBSTER: Doctor – Again, our low injury toll is testament to his great work. I don’t think the guy has ever raised a sweat as he is so calm and collected – I should learn a thing or two!