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Hunter Wildfires coach challenges players to ‘step up’

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Hunter Wildfires coach Scott Coleman is challenging his charges to step up against Souths this weekend… or he’ll swing the axe.

The local Shute Shield outfit suffered a 64-17 drubbing at the hands of Sydney powerhouse Randwick in the 2024 season opener at No. 2 Sportsground.

Not surprisingly, it was former Australian Test star Kurtley Beale who shone for the visitors, setting up several tries and landing four conversions.

Even so, Coleman admitted the Wildfires’ dismal performance caught him off-guard following a strong pre-season.

“I didn’t see that coming,” he said.

“Full credit to Randwick though, they’re an amazing side.

“They took the field with 13 of their grand final winning team plus Kurtley, who’s made 90-odd appearances for the Wallabies.

“That’s not a bad line-up.

“But, we didn’t help our cause either.

“Our lack of urgency and lack of line speed were two big things, while our one-on-one tackles were terrible.

“So, we’ve been working on those areas at training during the week.

“Along with our speed-the-set, as we call it, in getting ready in our shape, in both attack and defence.

“We were just really lacklustre, which was a massive surprise to me.

“It was the first match of the year and we were at home, so they should have been on song.

“However, they were really flat.

“I’m not sure what it was or why it was… but we’ve spoken about it this week.

“The guys couldn’t put their finger on it either.

“I’m not saying they were star-struck but it looked like the boys were just watching Kurtley play, instead of tackling.

“They had the Easter break before the round, so they should have been refreshed… and ready to go.”

In fact, a brutally honest Coleman said he couldn’t find any positives to take out of the fixture.

“Not really,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“I guess it was a good measure to see where we’re at.

“When we did hold the ball for phases, we actually looked dangerous.

“So, for 20 minutes out of 80, we appeared okay.

“But, we all know it’s not going to win us games.

“The boys realise that, too.”

Next up for the Wildfires is Souths, who succumbed 36-25 to Warringah.

And, Coleman’s well aware of the threat they pose.

“They’ve got a really big, dominant forward pack,” he said.

“They’re also good at the set piece.

“Their coach Joe Barakat isn’t going to be keen for two losses in a row… they’re going to come out fired up.

“So, I’m expecting another hard game to be honest.

“It’s a little bit funny we’re playing our ‘home’ match in Woy Woy and not Newcastle.

“However, we couldn’t get our ground because of Newcastle Rugby League’s Magic Round, we’ve been shifted off it.

“It certainly disadvantages us.

“But, the big positive is we get to take the game to the Central Coast and rugby fans down there have an opportunity to see a Shute Shield match in their backyard.

“We’ve moved it to a 6.30pm kick-off, so all the local teams can play their fixtures and, hopefully, come and support us.”

As for his squad, Coleman’s sticking solid with his men.

“Believe it or not, there’s no changes after a scoreline like that [against Randwick],” he said.

“Only because we’ve copped a few injuries and we’ve got some blokes out in our second grade.

“So, we’re giving them another chance to prove it to themselves and everyone else that they can compete and hold their spot.

“However, if they put in another poor performance, there will be mass changes.”

RANDWICK 64 defeated HUNTER WILDFIRES 17 (Bowen Abra, Isaac Montoisy tries; Nate De Thierry 2 conversions, penalty)

Shute Shield

Round one results:

  • Easts d West Harbour 31-15
  • Sydney Uni d Norths 35-29
  • Manly d Eastwood 32-17
  • Randwick d Hunter Wildfires 64-17
  • Two Blues d Gordon 22-19
  • Warringah d Souths 36-25

Round two draw:

(Saturday 13 April)

  • 3.05pm: Easts v Gordon (Woollahra Oval)
  • 3.05pm: Warringah v Randwick (Pittwater Rugby Park)
  • 3.05pm: Sydney Uni v Manly (Sydney University Football Ground)
  • 3.05pm: Norths v Eastwood (Cowra)
  • 3.05pm: Two Blues v West Harbour (Eric Tweedale Stadium)
  • 6.30pm: Hunter Wildfires v Souths (Woy Woy Oval)

The Newcastle Weekly is a media partner of the Hunter Wildfires

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