Former SUFC player, Jake Gordon, will run out as NSW halfback in the Waratahs final trial, with assistant coach Nathan Grey declaring the starting spot is ‘up for grabs.’
Having never played Super Rugby, despite being in the Waratahs fold since 2015, Gordon will get his first start in the senior side in what will be a youthful season for the NSW Waratahs backline.
The 23-year-old played an instrumental role in last year’s NRC Competition; an outstanding performance that saw him earn the title of the 2016 Buildcorp NRC Players’ Player. And so, it is without surprise, Grey said the coaches had given Gordon the nod over Phipps to challenge him to stake a claim on the position.
However, honing his skills at Sydney Uni alongside his Waratahs teammate, Nick Phipps, the Tahs halfback battle will undoubtedly be an intense one this season, with both Phipps and Gordon, as well as teammate Matt Lucas, all in contention.
According to assistant coach, Nathan Grey, the decision won’t be easy:
“There’s three nines in the program at the moment that are all training and performing in a way that is making the decisions difficult for Daryl,” he said.
“Clearly, Nick Phipps is someone who’s been around for a while and from a playing perspective at that highest level, we’ve got a pretty good idea of what Nick can do and what his skill set is and Jake’s a bit of a different story.
“So, him and Matty Lucas will be getting time and they’re pushing really hard,” said Grey.
But with the nine spot “up for grabs”, there could be not better test of Gordon’s Super Rugby potential than a battle with All Blacks halfback, Aaron Smith, who is set to start for the Highlanders at Brookvale Oval on Thursday night.
As Gordon remains in the limelight, last year’s most impressive NRC player, Irae Simone, has won his battle for the inside centre spot, with winger Harry Jones also to get his first start in the senior side against the Highlanders on Thursday.
Due to various team injuries, this means former SUFC players, Israel Folau and Bernard Foley, will step up to take greater ownership of what is anticipated to be a youthful Waratahs blackline this season, which includes Gordon, Simone and Jones, and some of whom will be unveiled in Thursday’s Super Rugby trail.
NSW Waratahs team to face the Highlanders: Andrew Kellaway, Reece Robinson, Israel Folau, Irae Simone, Harry Jones, Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon, Michael Wells, Michael Hooper (capt), Jack Dempsey, Will Skelton, Dean Mumm, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Tom Robertson.