No excuses for Rats in Australian Club Championship

by RUGBY.com.au staff

No excuses - that's the blunt message that Warringah coach Darren Coleman will be delivering to his side as they prepare for Saturday's Australian club championship match against University of Queensland at Pittwater Rugby Park.

"There will be no excuses if we don't win," Coleman said.

"We're comfortable about where we are at at the moment - the whole club has had a good pre-season and we've been able to pick our strongest side for this game.

"But I must say that we're a little bit underdone in terms of match practice and they (UQ) have played a couple more trials than us, but hey that's just the way it is."Coleman will field 14 players from his match-day 23 on Shute Shield grand final day against Northern Suburbs and has welcomed two fresh faces to the club for Saturday's big match.

Prop Harry Rorke, who has come across from fellow Shute Shield club Gordon, will start at tighthead in place of Sam Needs while Ruaridah Mackenzie will play at No. 8 forcing Saturday's skipper Sam Ward into the second row.

Rorke, who has had time with the Sea Eagles in the NRL, started his rugby career in the backrow but pushed himself further up the line and has been making major in-roads in recent times.

Mackenzie came to the Rats in the off-season from the Glasgow Warriors and Coleman expects the lanky backrower to make an impact on Saturday and throughout the Shute Shield season.

"He's trained well with us and he played well in the 60 minutes that we had against Easts last weekend so he gets first crack at that," Coleman added.

"'Macca's a bit of a hybrid No. 8 in the Stephen Hoiles mould. he's tall and he's lean and he has a good skills set.

"It's now up to him to see if he hangs on to the job once our season gets underway."

A little over 12 months ago rugby was the last thing on Mackenzie's mind as he battled viral meningitis and spent a number of months in hospital including some time in a coma.

The 22-year-old's father is a capped Scotland international having played one Test in 1984.

The Rats though, will be without their grand final playmaker Hamish Angus after he picked up a bit of niggle on the east coast sevens circuit.But they have Myles Dorrian to lead them around the park, something he did in the four weeks leading to the grand final and also in the final 30 minutes of the premiership decider.

There is some star power on the bench with former Wallaby Mark Gerrard back at the club after six years coaching and playing in Japan.

Gerrard is settling into life after professional rugby and has started work with a real estate on the northern beaches.

UQ coach Mick Heenan has named a fresh looking side for the side with much expected from the likes of flanker Pat Morrey and fullback Jock Campbell.

"There been a bit of turnover from last year's grand final side (only six remain) but that's pretty normal," Heenan said.

"But we've got some good experience in our halves and in some of the other decision making positions.

"We'll probably be dwarfed by the Warringah side but we are used to that. It's up to the boys to be nice and aggressive and spread the ball at the right time to edges."

UQ's inside centre Con Foley, an Aussie sevens Olympian at the Rio Games, will be looking to make it two national club championships on the trot.

Foley was part of Norths win last year over Brothers in Brisbane and will be the old head at No. 12 amongst some young and exciting talent headed up by winger Will Eadie and No. 10 Jim Dalgleish.

Interestingly Foley didn't play in Norths grand final win in 2016 and was recovering from a number of concussions when the Red Heavies won their grand final against GPS.

But the home team's advantage may not come from anyone on the field with Rats GM and first grade starting hooker Luke Holmes saying the groundswell of community support for the club had been at times overwhelming.

The club donated more money to charities than they used in match payments - $45,000 compared to $36,000 - in 2017 and it's a formula that is working.

Holmes says club rugby was now taking the initiative for growing the game and not relying on a top down approach that had been prevalent in past seasons.

"The more that the club game can invest in their communities the more the numbers are going to grow," Holmes told FOX Sports.

"And that's going to lead at more people going to go and watch the Wallabies."

The trophy on offer is the Tackling Violence Cup which supports a domestic violence initiative from the NSW Government.

TEAMS

Warringah team to play Queensland Uni

1. Rory O'Connor

2. Luke Holmes

3. Harry Rorke

4. Sam Ward

5. Sam Thomson

6. Max Girdler

7. Maclean Jones

8. Ruaridah Mackenzie

9. Josh Holmes

10. Myles Dorrian

11.Harry Jones

12. Sailosi Tagickibau

13. Seb Wileman

14. Tyson Davis

15. Dave Feltscheer

Reserves:

16. Rob Kelly

17. Baxter King

18. Faavae Sila

19. Jack Tomkins

20. Andrew Davies

21. Pat Curtin

22. Mark Gerrard

23. Harley Attwater

Queensland Uni team to play Warringah

1. Tom Mellor

2. Campbell Wakely

3. Hamish Richardson

4. Jay Adkins

5. Ben Paxton-Hall

6. Pat Morrey

7. Wyatt Setu

8. Jack de Guingand

9. Scott Gale

10. James Dalgleish

11. Will Eadie

12. Con Foley

13. Josh Birch

14. Clifton Setu

15. Jock Campbell

Reserves:

16. Aaron Pleash

17. SJ Tamala

18. James McColl

19. John Yates

20. Max Sing

21. Sam Dalgleish

22. Ed Gibson

23. Brad Twidale

The Warringah Rats will host UQ in the Australian Club Championship match at Pittwater Rugby Park on Saturday with the kickoff at 3pm AEDT. FOX Sports will telecast the game LIVE.