Following a “sizzling” off-season, with much anticipation, the Hunter Wildfires will open their 2022 Shute Shield account on home turf this weekend.
The local outfit, to be captained by the returning Rob Puli’uvea this season, is set to face Sydney powerhouse Gordon in three fixtures at Newcastle’s No 2 Sportsground on Saturday.
After COVID-19, and subsequent lockdowns, forced the postponement of the competition last year, the Scott Coleman-led side will be chomping at the bit to run back onto the field.
The organisation recently hosted its inaugural Media Day at the Kent Hotel to ramp up the excitement about the Wildfires’ upcoming campaign in both men’s and women’s divisions.
Well-attended by more than 80 players, members of the board, coaching staff and management, the event was met with great enthusiasm from the group.
“We did a lot of rethinking and planning at the end of last season,” president Brett Sutherland said.
“The program was disrupted by the pandemic but there were still a lot of learnings.
“We reviewed what worked and what didn’t, spoke with the teams, our corporate partners and our coaches.
“Both on and off the field, we’re working hard to lift the standards.
“So, in line with SRU requirements, Scott Coleman has moved to a full-time role and we’ve hired a permanent general manager in Stuart Pinkerton.
“We’ve also brought in a dedicated digital agency to help boost our brand image and make sure we’re really delivering for our corporate partners.”
Sutherland said the Wildfires was building “something incredible” in the Hunter.
“We want people to know about us,” he explained.
“Kids get to see the Knights (NRL and NRLW) and Jets (ALM and ALW) here at home, so we want them to see rugby as an option, too.
“It’s the best game on earth, we want to shine a light on that and, hopefully, build the code all over the Hunter as a result.”
Wildfires board chair Nicola Roche echoed Sutherland’s sentiments.
“In hosting our Media Day, we had a few things we wanted to achieve,” she said.
“Firstly, we wanted to produce more professional team base content that allows us to connect with our fans and our corporate partners.
“Secondly, for the players, we wanted to give them insight into the expectations in working with the media, which is obviously part of professional sport and it’s really important experience for their development.
“Inside and outside of rugby, we want to help give our players the exposure and skills they need to succeed.
“So, we’re treating them professionally and giving them opportunities to do that.”
The Colts will kick off the action from 11.50am, with second grade taking the field at 1.25pm and the firsts from 3pm.
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