The year of the home ground nomad starts on Saturday for the Waratahs and flyhalf Bernard Foley says there’s plenty of upside to be found in their rotating schedule.
NSW will play against the Hurricanes at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night and are set to take their home games to Newcastle, Parramatta and the SCG this season with Allianz Stadium under construction.
While they won’t have one home fortress per se, Foley said the variety of venues would actually be a good thing for the club.
“I think it's a really positive aspect of this year, there's a silver lining of not having a home ground is that we can go out and reconnect with a lot of our fans,” he said.
“Getting to play in Newcastle, Western Sydney, Brookvale and the SCG is something that's pretty exciting for us, it's something we haven't done so for us to be able to re-engage with some of the rugby fans and the rugby people in the state is pretty exciting.”
Fans have clearly been receptive to the new-look schedule with Brookvale Oval on track to sell out on Saturday night.
A win over the Hurricanes in their season opener would be a big statement for the Waratahs in round one but Foley said they weren’t preoccupied with sending a trans-Tasman message in their first clash.
“I don't think we talk about that. What is exciting is to start our 2019 campaign,” he said.
“To be at home, to be back at Brookvale where we had such a great reception last year, it's great to play in those suburban grounds where they can get very vocal and quite loud and make it hopefully into the fortress that it has been known as.
“I think it's just exciting for us to be in the season, into competition, playing good footy week in week out as the Waratahs.”
Foley will be playing inside a new centre combination against the Hurricanes with Karmichael Hunt and Adam Ashley-Cooper starting the year in the midfield.
Hunt has been picked at 12 with Kurtley Beale being rested while Adam Ashley-Cooper’s first start was accelerated by a hamstring injury to Lalakai Foketi.
Foley and Beale have been somewhat of a package deal for the Waratahs in recent years and the NSW pivot admitted it would be a different feel with Hunt on his outside.
“It's going to be different isn't it?,” he said.
“He (Beale) adds great spark but Karmichael's got a different flavour and he'll probably be a bit more direct but he'll take the ball forward and get us over the gainline as well.”
“Those guys have come in, maybe a bit later than we expected and their experience has really complemented the youth that we've got in the team.
“Even in the short period of time they've been there, they've imposed so much wisdom and even just the way they act and the way they prepare themselves and the way they are around the group has been nothing short of remarkable and how they've had an impact so early on.
“I think it's just great for our young guys and our entire squad to have those guys in our squad and being able to add to this team and hopefully set us forward going throughout the season.”
Foley is expected to follow in Beale’s footsteps and sit on the sideline at times this year under the Wallabies’ World Cup resting policy.
The 29-year-old recently called for a clear plan when it came to resting and said he had sat down with Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson to nut out that strategy.
“I think we want to play every week, we're competitive people and we want to be there helping the team and playing alongside everyone but I think there is an end goal and what we want to be doing is playing our best footy each and every week, so in terms of the plan, knowing that there is a plan, then we can just go about our business,” he said.
“That's the exciting thing about it and I think what we have at the Waratahs now is the depth through our whole squad so it gives guys who have been in the squad or been training or doing the preseason an opportunity to put their hand up and take the jersey and express themselves and be able to add to the team what they haven't been allowed to in the past.”
The Waratahs take on the Hurricanes at Brookvale Oval on Saturday February 16, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.