With the new year comes new faces and a new training program for the Gunnedah Red Devils.
Gunnedah have been training once a week since mid-December before they doubled the training load at the start of February.
The pre-season training has included a new strength and conditioning program and coach Jason Waerea said the attitude amongst the players has been “awesome” and the numbers “great”.
“The boys had a taste of complimenting training with gym work last year during wet nights with Maryanne Perkins at the Gunnedah Health and Fitness facility in Railway Street,” he said.
“We’ve continued that complimentary approach and have engaged Chris Degroot of Peak Performance who was a great help in pre-season two years ago before he transferred to Sydney to further his studies. We’ve taken the opportunity to utilise Chris before we start to put some metres in the legs and hit the skills and drills in the back end of February-early March.”
While Waerea didn’t divulge any names, he said there were “plenty of new faces at training”.
He said the makeup of the team for 2018, with new players coming in, would determine the exact game plan the Red Devils would formulate for this year.
“You need to see who returns to play and what skill sets the new players have and plan from there,” Waerea said.
“In 2017 we had a very simple plan to develop a strong set piece scrum and line out around our heavy pack and it worked very well for us.
“You own your own ball and put pressure on the opposition to hold theirs. Our backs attacked well off good set pieces so it’s much the same there. We will look to do the same thing with more speed and physicality.”
What type of competition Gunnedah will play in in 2018 is still to be decided after plans for a joint Central North-New England competition hit a stalemate.
Opinions were divided between two potential draws to be played in the new competition.
Waerea said taking on new teams was an exciting prospect but also said “getting the balance right” was critical for success.
“Playing new teams who have different styles of play is exciting. The New England sides will bring speed and enthusiasm and it’s not easy to play and defend against that rugby style,” Waerea said.
“The Central North Zone is strong. Any decision to grow the game in the country area including New England amalgamating with the Central North and developing total player numbers in our competitions is positive for country rugby.
“This is a massive change and a change of this size is hard to get everything right because of the intricacies of running a successful rugby club. As a coach we want the best games and outcomes for our players. As a club, in my opinion, we want the best outcome for our clubs. Getting the balance right is critical for its success.”