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By Jack McIlroy Reid
The 2014 Magners Shute Shield kicks off this Saturday with Eastern Suburbs hosting big derby rivals Randwick at Woollahra Oval in what looks set to be the match of the round.
And there will be added spice this season, with eight Easts players moving to Randwick over the summer. Several Wicks players have gone the other way, including last year’s captain Seilala Lam. He starts at openside flanker, with fellow former Wick Matty Mackay debuting for Easts at blindside.
There is no change of allegiance for Eastern Suburbs’ new captain Anton LaVin, whose involvement with the club stretches back 22 years.
Keen to talk up the derby rivalry, which will be televised live this Saturday as ABC TV’s featured game, LaVin says, “I want to win and I think we will win. We want to improve on last season and there’s no better team to start against than Randwick.
“We thrive off the fact it’s a derby, it makes us want to run faster and hit harder. It will be a physical game for sure.”
One of the eight to make the short trip to Coogee is Alex Walker, who starts at hooker and will face up against Easts’ new boy Billy Johnston, adding spice to what already promises to be a fiery forwards battle.
As the forwards go toe to toe, both teams’ running backs will be eager to get their hands on the ball, centre Kuki Ma’afu will no doubt relish the opportunity to make his Randwick debut against his former employer. Waiting for him will be Chris Tuatara Morrison, his replacement, boasting Super Rugby experience with the Western Force and looking to strike up an immediate understanding with fellow new recruit Keith Mesema.
The visitors come into the fixture equally confident, having beaten 2013 finallist Eastwood in the pre-season and put on a good showing against the Norths.
Elsewhere, last season’s third and fourth placed teams face off, with Southern Districts and Manly looking to take it one step further in 2014.
Souths’ captain Jed Holloway believes that a change of backroom staff will push the players on to go that step further this season. “We won both trials in the off season and have no injuries and a good fit squad coming into this game.
“We always have a good rivalry with Manly and with our new coaching staff, this season we have fresh ideas and hope to build success around our clubs high standards.”
New first team coach Matt Barr agrees. “We’ve recruited strongly and have good numbers across five strong grades. Manly are a tough side and there’ll be some good rugby on show.”
Manly also starts off the back of winning two pre-season matches and, after a strong summer of recruitment and maintenance of all first grade players, captain Ed Gower predicts that his side will get better and better.
“Last season we feel we may have trailed off towards the end of games so we’ve made our fitness the backbone to this season. It would be good to win but at the same time, we hope it’s our worst performance of the campaign as it’s important to improve constantly and gain momentum.”
Two sides with high ambitions going into the 2014 Magners Shute Shield are Gordon and Parramatta, with the Highlanders making the journey out west this Saturday. Gordon was one of several teams to travel to Newcastle in the pre-season and, after a convincing win, is harbouring top six ambitions for this campaign. Parramatta will also be aiming for a finals place and a win in this fixture would be morale boosting for both clubs, with the past few meetings all decided by a margin of less than five points.
Sydney University starts the season confident of winning its ninth title in 10 years and kick off against underdogs Penrith, who will look to feed off a pre-season win over the fancied Students. Uni captain Tom Boidin is certainly not taking Penrith lightly. “We’ve got a young side this time round after some of our more experienced players retired, I think the average age is 23. Our young players have a point to prove and will definitely not be underestimating Penrith.”
The final matches of round 1 will see Eastwood, minor premier in 2013, get its 2014 campaign underway at home to Northern Suburbs, who are one of several sides who will fancy themselves as finals contenders. West Harbours visit to Warringah completes the opening round.
As always the 2014 competition will be broadcast live on ABC1 throughout NSW and the ACT on Saturdays from 3pm. Interstate viewers can watch a full replay of each week’s Shute Shield game at 3.30am on Tuesday mornings on ABC1 nationally and rugby fans everywhere can catch all the action online at anytime on ABC iView.
A full fixtures list, together with weekly previews and all the results can be found at www.nswrugby.com.au.
Rugby fans can also follow the Shute Shield on Facebook where you can catch game highlights and a preview of the upcoming ABC TV match, and on Twitter via @shuteshield where you can send your thoughts through the week and receive live updates during selected games. You can also catch highlights of every round on the Shute Shield YouTube TV channel at www.YouTube.com/shuteshield
Magners Shute Shield round 1 matches - Saturday March 29, 2014
Eastern Suburbs v Randwick @ Woollahra Oval 3:00pm (LIVE ON ABC TV)
Eastern Suburbs: 1. Cooper Chapman, 2. Billy Johnstone, 3. Clay Brodie, 4. Gab Passmoore, 5. Richard Stanford, 6. Matthew McKay, 7. Seilala Lam, 8. Kelti Vaingalo, 9. Luke Irwin, 10. Henry Hudson, 11. Damon Anderson, 12. Kieth Mesema 13. Chris Tuatara-Morrison 14. Anton La Vin (c), 15. Jeremy Raftos.
Randwick: 1. Toa Asa, 2. Alex Walker, 3. Tristain Goodbody, 4. Dan Falefa, 5. Alfred Pinomi, 6. Tom Bennett, 7. Mark Baldwin, 8. Sam Figg (c), 9. Tim Donlan, 10. David Horwitz, 11. Ethan Ford, 12. Pieter Englebrecht, 13. Kuki Ma'afu, 14. Tim Wright, 15. Liam Windon.
Referee: Angus Gardner
Eastwood v Northern Suburbs @ T.G.Milner FieldField 3:00pm
Eastwood: 1. Jed Gillespie, 2. Hugh Roach, 3. Dylan Brass, 4. Steve Cummins, 5. Andrew Clyne, 6. Jared Barry, 7. Kyle Shewan, 8. Hugh Perrett (c), 9. Mick Snowden, 10. Pierre Hola, 11. Nick Batger, 12. Blake Sutton, 13. Cameron Mitchell, 14. John Grant, 15. Ben Batger.
Northern Suburbs: 1. Daniel Murray, 2. Will Weeks, 3. Nick Lah (c), 4. James Cunningham, 5. Michael O’Hea, 6. Ben Matwijow, 7. Will Miller, 8. Michael Wells, 9. Liam Walker, 10. Jack Grant, 11. Kurt Penney, 12. Lachlan Porteous, 13. Jac Cameron, 14. Jackson Selby, 15. Mitch Walton.
Referee: Will Houston
Parramatta v Gordon @ Merrylands RSL Rugby Park 3:00pm
Parramatta: 1.Simon Lemalu 2. Myles Hunkin 3. Nick Blacklock 4. Sakaria Noa 5. Josh Kron 6. Andrew Cox (c) 7. Josh Kaifa 8. Rodney Ma’a 9. Kaleb Rech 10. Sam Yakopo 11. Alex Samoa 12. Dominic Graham 13. Tomu Mataika (c) 14. Lani Tiatia 15. Tom Woods.
Gordon: 1. Nick Fraser, 2. Tobias Guikabau, 3. Hugh Cropley, 4. Ruiradh Wilson, 5. Roni Scarano, 6. Jack Dempsey, 7. Gordon Broome, 8. Mark Williams, 9. Terry Preston ©, 10. Henry Carmichael, 11. Matt Gordon, 12. Tom Matthews, 13. Nathan Scarano, 14. Matt McDougall, 15. Richie Williams.
Referee: Jamie McGregor
Penrith v Sydney University @ Nepean Rugby Park 3:00pm
Penrith: 1. Daniel Aroma, 2. Ethan Robinson-Mate (C), 3. Nigel Vaifale, 4. Sione Pusiàki Fifita, 5. Anton McGreadie, 6. Senio Tolefoa, 7. Areta Taiti, 8. Pita Tupou, 9. Nortise Tauafao, 10. Robbie Mate, 11. Wilson Silipa, 12. Paueli Halafihi, 13. Malakai Zelenzniak, 14. Jerome MkKenzie, 15. Tbc.
Sydney University: 1. Alasdair King, 2. James Willan, 3. Sam Talakai, 4. Byron Hodge, 5. Tom Heslop, 6. Tom Boidin (c), 7. Benn Melrose, 8. Hugo Dessens, 9. Jake Gordon, 10. Stefano Hunt, 11. Sam English, 12. James McMahon, 13. Chris Ingate, 14. James Dargaville, 15. Stuart Dunbar.
Referee: Tim Wills
Southern Districts v Manly @ Forshaw Rugby Park 3:00pm
Southern Districts: 1.Duncan Chubb, 2.Maile Nguamo, 3.Tim Metcher, 4.Marcus Carbone, 5. Andrew Leota, 6. Luke Smart, 7. Jono Hayes, 8. Jed Holloway (c), 9.Dewet Roos, 10. Rohan Saifoloi, 11. Faleula Finau, 12. Ollie Samuela, 13.Deny Godinet, 14. Ben Connolly, 15. Ben Volavola.
Manly: 1. James Gentle, 2. David Porecki, 3. Tim Fairbrother, 4. Ed Gower (c), 5. Greg Peterson, 6. Harry Bergelin, 7. Kotoni Ale, 8. Vaka Manu, 9. Matt Lucas, 10. Marshall Milroy, 11. Richard Hooper, 12. Brian Sefanaia, 13. Mali Hingano, 14. Luii Siale, 15. Shaun Treweek.
Referee: Ed Martin
Warringah v West Harbour @ Pittwater Rugby Park 3:00pm
Warringah: 1. Richard Southern, 2. Luke Holmes (c,) 3. Wayne Borsak, 4. Vincent Wright, 5. Ben Adams, 6. Junior Palau, 7. Sam Ward, 8. Sam Crompton, 9. Josh Holmes, 10. Josh Gillard, 11. Brad Dixon, 12. Chris Arnold, 13. Michael Adams, 14. Sireli Tagicakibau, 15. David Feltscheer.
West Harbour: 1. Michael Alaalatoa, 2. Ryan Dalziel, 3. David Lolohea, 4. Bradford Kapa, 5. Chris Simons, 6. Tom Games (c), 7. Cohen Masson, 8. Harrison Orr, 9. Rob Cattanach, 10. Dave Harvey, 11. Joel Brooks, 12. Henry Seavula, 13. Rory Sidey, 14. Usaia O'Sullivan, 15. Angus Le Lievre.
Referee: Richard Goswell