NRC: Hilton and Mcgrath Preparing For Tough Calls


Zane Hilton is bracing himself for some tough decisions (Image: Getty)

With the Melbourne Rising squad to be announced on Monday, Head Coach Zane Hilton says that “some very tough decisions will have to be made.”

Reflecting on the program’s opening few weeks of training, where a Melbourne Rising Extended Training Squad (ETS) have worked hard to try and show why they deserve to make the final squad, Hilton admits the final squad will look a little different to what he perhaps was expecting.

“There will be some very tough calls made; guys who we selected in the initial squad and thought would do well have done just that, but then there are also guys who we took a little longer to select who have gone on to train very well and play better and better for their Club teams,” he said.

With the Direct Connect Dewar Shield moving in to the finals stage now, Hilton is enjoying watching Melbourne Rising ETS players come up against one another and said he can’t pick who will win the competition.

“The Dewar Shield is so tight this year, and that’s a credit to all of the Clubs who have invested in their coaching staff and the development of their programs, with the standard rising across the board,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see over the next couple of weeks who wins it; every one of those teams (Box Hill, Harlequin, Melbourne Uni and Melbourne) are capable of winning the competition, and it’s a great thing for the Rising program. There are a number of players who have been playing to try and secure spots in our full squad, and once we name our squad those who are in it will be trying to show why they should be in the 15 or 23 for our first match in three weeks’ time.”

Hilton has enjoyed working with the Rising ETS at Harlequin Rugby Club, after recently completing his first season as Tony McGahan’s Assistant with the Melbourne Rebels.

“This is Rugby isn’t it!” he says. “Coaching Club Rugby is where we’ve all come from, so it’s great to get back to that; you’re never too far removed from that, whether you’re working professionally in Rugby or not; it’s always just another Rugby field.

It’s been exciting; we’ve got a great group of guys and a really good staff. I’m really enjoying working so closely with Assistant Coach Craig McGrath and Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Zane Leonard, and likewise really enjoying getting to know the Dewar Shield players in the ETS, particularly those involved in the 2014 campaign.”

For McGrath, who returns as Melbourne Rising’s Assistant Coach for the second straight year, there’s no limit to what the team are capable of in the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC).

“The overall standard of the group we’re working with at the moment is of a really high quality,” McGrath said. “They’ve been a real pleasure to work with, and now we’re looking forward to finalising the squad and getting down to the final numbers with them and the Rebels boys.

“We had quite a good campaign last year but a disappointing Semi Final defeat, and we’re really determined and driven to improve on that in 2015. We want to do the best that we can, with the group that we’ve got, and we know every Club will be the same; we all know what is required now as it’s the second NRC, it’s not new to anybody, and we’ll likely see an even better and more competitive competition than we did last year.”

McGrath said that the Rising were picking from a bigger pool of talent in 2015, and that the ETS members were better prepared for the required step up than they were last season.

“The guys who were involved last year have definitely come back better and more prepared, particularly from a conditioning perspective, and that shows the understanding of the requirements,” he said. “They’ve shown up in a better state of conditioning and fitness, which is great.”

McGrath said letting players know that they hadn’t been in selected in the final squad would be tough, however he was hopeful that those who didn’t make the final squad would be able to return to give it a crack next season with a greater understanding of the requirements.

“Something that we spoke about at training last week was about maintaining these standards when they return to their Club side, even if they’re not picked,” McGrath said. “We’ve talked about how they have had a taste of what it’s about, and they need to be able to take the feedback from Zane and I if they’re not selected and use it to have another crack next year.

“Some players aren’t involved in finals so will have to wait until 2016, but the attitude has been superb and everybody seems genuinely keen to become better players and better athletes. It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable start to the 2015 Rising program.”

The 2015 Melbourne Rising squad will be named this Monday, August 3rd.