Preview Round 1
By Paul Treanor
An air of nervous excitement surrounds the start of this year’s Sydney Premiership Rugby season. It doesn’t seem that long ago we were all at Concord Oval cheering on our four grade sides on a historical Grand Final day. Yet here we are with the first round of the 2014 season about to start this weekend. Our First Grade side will again be defending their minor premiership title while Third Grade are defending premiers.
The new season brings with it a new sponsor for the Shute Shield and it will be renamed the Magners Shute Shield. It will also see a new player points system, a new starting time, a new final series (six teams rather than eight) and a new National Rugby Competition (NRC). Players will be working hard to be part of the NRC that will start at the end of the Premier Rugby season. Time will tell what impact the new player points system and the NRC will have on the Clubs in the NSW Premier Competition. Players may be more interested in moving to other clubs to improve their chances to get a jersey in one of the Sydney based NRC teams as a stepping stone to Super Rugby.
All in all an exciting new era of Australian Rugby is about to start and Eastwood will again be a force to reckon with in both the Magners Shute Shield and as part of the Greater Sydney Rams consortium in the NRC.
With all Clubs looking to have a great season the starting weekend is always full of optimism and hope. With last year’s form now confined to the history books it is hard to predict results this weekend . It will take a few rounds for teams in all grades to start showing what they have got. In the meantime we can expect the usual high standard from the Eastwood players as they again chase victory and hopefully the Club Championship.
Round one sees Eastwood take on Northern Suburbs at home. In fact both Grade and Colts will be playing at Millner due to North Sydney Oval still been populated by men dressed in white . One of the down sides of the season starting this early. While Grade are playing on the main oval the Colts will do battle on No2.
The Shoremen come to Millner for this first round clash off the back of a highly successful Sevens campaign during the summer months. They will be hoping for this form will flow through to the 15 a side game. However they have lost a number of key players from their last year’s squad and will be missing Cam Crawford who is in South Africa with the Waratah’s as a late call up. They are an unknown quantity and Eastwood will be on their guard as they will be out to prove themselves.
Eastwood have selected Hugh Roach at Hooker where he has been playing with the Waratah’s A team. Also coming into the side from the Waratah’s A is Steve Cummins. Missing from last year’s forward pack is Locky McCaffrey who is establishing himself at the Brumbies. Also missing the start of the season is Michael MacDougall who dislocated his elbow last week against Randwick in the final trial match. He is expected to miss the first four weeks. This gives two of last year’s Second Grade Grand Final team a place in the run on squad – Blake Sutton in the Centres and Kyle Shewan at 7.
With most of last year’s players returning Eastwood should be again strong across all teams. The biggest challenge will be getting themselves mentally tough after such a successful season last year. It is going to take a mighty effort to improve on what they did in 2013 but knowing the Eastwood Spirit and determination of the players and coaching staff it is well within them to achieve just that.
So the action this weekend is at Millner as the Woodies start their 2014 campaign to take out the club championship and to have all seven teams in the grand final come August. Fourth Grade get the fun started with kick off scheduled at 10.45 while Colts Thirds get the season off at 11.50. From then on its wall to wall Rugby the Eastwood way. Colts Firsts get under way at 2.30 while the main event on the main oval starts at 3 o’clock. Get there as early as you can to see a wonderful afternoon of Rugby.