Sydney Uni claimed the minor premiership last year and looked on track to take another trophy back to Camperdown, before they were ambushed by Northern Suburbs and a few thousand screaming fans in last year’s decider.
While Tom Carter’s playing future is still up in the air, the Students are expected to field a new look first grade side again this season and will rely on the club’s younger players to fill the void left by a handful of bigger names.
But that doesn’t appear to worry coach Tim Davidson, who has spent the summer tinkering with Uni’s defensive systems, with the hope that some minor changes can help them go one better this season.
Ins: Wayne Borsak (Eastwood).
Outs: Jake Gordon (Waratahs), Matt Phillip (Force), Jim Stewart (injury), Angus Roberts (sabbatical), Stu Dunbar (Italy).
Overview with Tim Davidson:
“Looking back, it was a great year. We had a lot of young players who developed a lot in that time and I think we played some good rugby. In the final, we were just beaten by a better team on the day and while that’s disappointing, it does make it a little easier to accept. Full credit goes to Norths, they played exceptional finals football and they were deserved winners,” Davidson said.
“From a club perspective, we managed to win the club championship, third and fourth grade and two out of the three colts grades, so it was a great year overall.
“We’ve lost a few of our more experienced players for this year and that will be a big loss but it also creates an opportunity for some of the younger guys in the club to push through and show what they can do. What you lose in experience, you gain in enthusiasm so it should be a good test for them.
“I’m hoping that the younger guys from last year’s squad continue to step up. With a full season under their belts, they’ll be able to pass on their experiences to the new guys. I think we’ve got to be careful that they don’t fall into ‘second year syndrome’ and just expect things to happen. They’ve got to continue to work hard and develop their game because they’ll have more responsibility on their shoulders this year.
“We worked hard to make sure the guys didn’t lose their base fitness over the off-season. We’ve also worked on our decision-making in key positions and tried to accelerate our learning and up skill some of the younger guys.
“As a coaching group, we sat down at the start of last year and decided that one of our major focuses was to provide a program that allowed and pushed guys to go on and play at a higher level, so it’s great to see that some of our guys have done that. There are a lot of rewarding areas of the game, but that is definitely right up there.”
Key areas of improvement:
“Defence has been a pretty big focus. We’re not changing things dramatically or throwing out what we did last year, but we’re adding a layer and increasing the players understanding and skillset.
“We showed last year that we can attack quite well, so now we’re trying to marry that up with our defence.
“I think we’ve let ourselves down in key areas that were in our control in the past, particularly in terms of our organisation, so hopefully we’ll see an improvement on that this year.”
Player/s to watch:
“Nick De Crespigny is a really good lock or backrower who is coming up from colts. He has worked really hard over summer and I’m hopeful that if he continues to develop and keeps putting in the hard work that he’ll be one to keep an eye on.
“Ben Hughes is another one to watch. He’s a flyhalf who is in his second year of first grade now and he’s had a bad run of injuries, but I’m really keen to see how he has developed over the off-season. I’d like to see him really take control this year and lead the side around.”
What are your hopes and expectations for the season?
“Everyone obviously wants to win the competition but we’re in the middle of a two-year plan, which is based around the player’s behaviors on and off the field. I think we took a big leap in the right direction with that last year but I think it’ll take another full year to really drive that home. If by the end of the year, we’re consistently seeing that reflected in our player’s behaviours on and off the field, then I think that’s a successful year. If we can do that, I think the results will take care of themselves.”
Who will your team play in the grand final this year?
“I think there are a number of teams that could be there. The competition was close last year but I think it will be even closer this year. I’m really excited about the development of teams like West Harbour and Penrith. Todd Louden is a fantastic coach, so I think they’ll be stronger across all grades and Penrith will be a lot more organised. We played them in a trial and you can already see a difference in how they play.
“If I had to pick tomorrow, I’d have to say Warringah, Norths and Randwick are probably three teams that will be tough to beat. You can never write off Souths either, they are well coached and have great depth and I think they’ll be in the mix.”