2022 JR Henderson Shield GF: Meet the Teams – Randwick

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Randwick’s 3rd Grade captain Sean Conner looks ahead to tomorrow’s JR Henderson Shield grand final derby showdown against Eastern Suburbs, and takes us through his side’s matchday XV…

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With our Holy Messiah’s, Brett ‘BG’ Gilbert and Mark ‘Space’ Houston in charge of the mighty 3rd Grade season for 2022, it may not have looked like it at times but the season was always bound to finish in the promised land. You’ll find at times the 3rd Grade is somewhat like a busy train station in China, players coming and going every week until they finally find a home – I think this has resulted in us not fielding the same team twice since the start of the season but we love it like that and wouldn’t change it for a thing. In saying this the crop we have finally landed on for the big dance is a team I wouldn’t trade for anyone. We’ve got youth and we’ve got the old and frail, we’ve got Kiwis, Irish, Italians, Australians and Fijians, we’ve got wise heads and we’ve got idiots – it all culminates in the perfect concoction to give this final a red hot crack.

The season has been a bit of a roller coaster journey, jumping out of the gates to lead the competition for the majority of the first round but we didn’t take in consideration the track was a heavy 10 and we finished poorly down the stretch, dropping a couple of games we would have liked to win in the latter parts of the season. In saying this, it is always a highlight to beat Sydney Uni twice and we are two from two in the finals so far so something is obviously is working (BG’s 3 x Resch’s Schooner policy at the Bronte Bowlo for the team must actually be working). In mentioning the Bronte Bowlo, it would be rude of me to not mention that their Parmigiana with Mushroom Sauce will change your life, tell them Sean sent ya.

A huge thank you to all the administration and coaching staff at Randwick who make these seasons possible, your work does not go unnoticed and thank you to the 50+ lads we’ve had don the 3rd Grade jersey this year – it has been a pleasure to try and lead you and look forward to doing it one last time tomorrow.

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All photos: Ric McLallen

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1. DEAN BEGETIS: The ‘Bag Man’. It’s easy to get up for games like Deano does with the plethora of inspirational speeches his Dad has offered up at the Begetis household for the 2022 season. It has become a highlight of the 3rd Grade season getting early to the game and finding out if Dean has woken up with the sparrows to his Dad standing at the end of his bed in his dressing gown, ready with a speech that would rival Phil Gould pre-Origin. The heart and soul of the team, he has more speed than half the backs and he anchors the scrum – although his running style rivals that of a Honey Badger.

2. LOUIS ROBINSON: Just as mad on the field as this young bull is off it, he’s one of the men you want standing beside you when you’re defending the line. But if you’re standing beside him at the pub past midnight you know your night has taken a turn for the worse. Is known to seagull on the sting scouring for pies, but as the great Space Houston told me, “If it was easy, we’d all be doing it.”

3. SHANE CONNOLLY: You’d think being Irish the guy would be able to hold himself in a wrestle, but he got flipped on his back by a back we won’t name this season in some pre-training jiu jitsu, and hasn’t recovered from the shame yet. Luckily, his MMA skills do not translate to his scrummaging ability as this 20-year-old oxen refuses to go backward when he packs down. He resembles ‘The Mountain’ from Game of Thrones and he’s happy to remind you so.

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4. OLLIE SMYTH: I’m not sure how old ‘Smythy’ is but he’s young, yet like all good locks he has the wisdom and charisma of a 40-year-old veteran that has well over 200 caps to his name. Loves knocking over long necks just as much as loves knocking blokes over in the ruck.

5. WILL McDONALD: Battled with injuries early in the season after getting in a disagreement with a fellow pub patron in the toilets somewhere on the Central Coast at the start of the year, aggravating a recovering knee injury. All was cool though as we like this kind of aggression in our second row in 3rd Grade. No nonsense bloke, no nonsense player.

6. CONOR BARRY: The only man I’ve met that can knock over half a dozen double Proper Twelve’s on the rocks the night before a game and play better than if he didn’t – a true Irishman. A demon for the try line this season, Lachie Anderson may have found the key to unlocking COB’s potential by offering three kegs of Guinness for Christmas if he managed to get double digit meaties.

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7. SAM CONNOR: ‘Mouse’, although small in stature, plays with the heart of a heavyweight boxer and hustles more than a Henrick on a Saturday night. He could also be the most polite man in world rugby, the kind of guy you want your sister bringing home at Christmas. Left his beloved 4th Grade to fill a void mid-season and we haven’t been able to let him go since.

8. FINN KEARNS: The ‘Mosman Toy Boy’ has been a revolution this year, and made his father Phil almost an afterthought at the hallowed Coogee Oval. Taking his talents to the beaches of San Diego after the season but has etched his name in 3rd Grade folklore and will be whispered about in Coogee for years to come. Always has a fan club watching on a Saturday morning no matter what the time, while the other boys are lucky to get anyone watching even if they paid for their tickets.

9. MARCO BELL: The human cheat code. He sings, he plays guitar, he passes and he tries to box kick – and he looks good doing it. Some people work their lives to gain skills like Marco has, some people are just born with it. He’s a finance jock from Monday-Friday, commands the thirds from the base of the scrum on a Saturday, and blesses pubs in the East with his vocal cords on a Sunday. Its Marco’s world, we’re just living in it.

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10. JAMIE KING: The Magic Man. Automatic off the foot and was a huge part of the come-from-behind upset win against Sydney Uni in the semi final. Some welcome Kiwi blood in the team and was missed by the skipper after a mid-season holiday booked by BG to 4th Grade. Wears his NZ Warriors kit with pride on a Thursday night, and this – along with his big golden run of form – has been a big cog in 3rd Grades push to the GF.

11. MATT STEAD: Could be the hardest man I’ve played with on the rugby field and the guy is stuck on the sting. When ‘Steady’ first made his way back from injury into thirds, I thought I was donning the same colours as the rampaging bull Gordon Tallis. Doesn’t say a lot on the field or at training but lets his shoulders do the talking, burying many a man on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays alike.

12. BEN ZUCCHIATTI: After a four week mid-season hiatus frequenting the beaches of Europe, the boys were worried the Italian Stallion may come back malnourished, 10kg underweight and not physically fit to finish the season after putting his body through the physical and mental rigours Ibiza and Mykonos offer up. But boy were we wrong. A workhorse and power house of the Wick’s 3rd Grade backline.

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13. SEAN CONNER (written by Sam Connor): AKA Captain Courageous, or Ryan Powter’s understudy. Depending on which coach you ask Sean made his third return from retirement this year, rumoured to have been driven by a deep loneliness after splitting up from his long time rugby playing housemates/fellow Kiwi’s. The retirement of the other three also provided Sean with his first real chance to be the best current rugby player of the four. His impact on the field this year was impressive for a man his age, and satisfied his desire for a strong Instagram presence with as few photos as possible depicting the top of his head.

14. HENRIK ANTHONY: The only thing quicker than Uncle Rico’s left-to-right step on the field is his left-to-right swipe on Hinge, Tinder or Bumble. Scores tries for fun, knows every bouncer in Sydney on a first name basis, and is an asset in all facets of life.

15. MATT DUTAILLIS: The ‘Great White Hope’, Matt is the measured head, the calming force and the steady hand every successful team needs. Combined with Sean, ‘Steady’ and ‘Kingy’ they would form one of the worst 4 x 100m relay teams of all time. But what the boys lack in speed they make up with in smarts, and Dutaillis exemplifies this.

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