SEASON PREVIEW: WYONG ROOS
The formidable captain-coach combination of Mitch Williams and Rip Taylor take the reins for the Wyong Roos once again in 2017, leading a squad that welcomes a host of young Sydney Roosters players from their winning Holden Cup team last year.
Since entering the Intrust Super Premiership NSW in 2013 without great success, the Roos have gradually risen to one of the competition heavyweights.
While they finished in sixth position last year and were eliminated in a semi-final match against the Wests Tigers, the Roos certainly underachieved, and have the team to push for a top-four position in 2017.
Record-breaking temperatures had an impact on all clubs in the pre-season, but that has not stopped Taylor’s men breaking all kinds of personal records.
“It’s been a pretty warm one, it’s been hot, but overall it’s been good,” Taylor tells NSWRL.com.au.
“The local boys have reached their goals and their training figures have been better than they have been for the past two seasons.”
“Some of the under-20s from the Roosters, the side that won last year, will be with us this year and they’re quality players and quality people, so hopefully everyone is fitting into place quite good at the moment.”
“We’ve had some up here before Christmas, we had a camp and they sent nine or 10 of their players along.
“We’ve had a couple at different weeks come up after Christmas, we’ve had a heap come up this week and they’ll come up again today for the training session on Saturday, so the Roosters have been very good at getting their players to us.
“First and foremost the goal is to make the finals and then kick on from there, but I think we need to work a little bit harder on our defence to be honest.
“Hopefully everything’s good to go for a good season without injuries.”
2016 IN 16 WORDS OR LESS
Threatening and good enough to make the finals, but struggled for consistency.
THEIR BIG FIVE
The ever-reliable Mitch Williams captains the Roos once again in 2017. He’s a classy hooker, and one of the best and most experienced players in the competition.
Brock Molan has been a mainstay for Wyong in recent years, and Taylor describes him as an underrated player with the ability to find space.
Josh Mantellato returns to his junior club after having spent two seasons with Hull KR. He turned heads with his freakish goal-kicking ability on his NRL debut, and is a prolific tryscorer.
One of the competition speedsters, Luke Sharpe will play fullback for the Roos in 2017, and Taylor predicts he is in for a big season.
Brady Barwick stands 200 centimetres tall, weighs 108 kilograms, and is only 20 years old. He’s one of the fresh faces for Wyong who should cause some havoc.
The statistics speaks for themselves.
In 37 years of coaching, Rip Taylor has taken his chosen side to 31 finals series, 23 grand finals and 12 premierships.
He steered Bellingen to their first Group 2 premiership in 19 years when he was just 20 years old, and captain-coached Lakes to back-to-back Newcastle premierships in 1985-86.
He took the Newcastle Knights to the 2006 Jersey Flegg Grand Final, and guided Parramatta and Wentworthville to second-tier premierships in the following two years.
Wyong earned the wooden spoon in 2013, and he took them to the Grand Final in 2015.
Yet, after all this success, Taylor admits he gets the most joy out of seeing young players develop into stars.
“I love [coaching],” Taylor says.
“I enjoy watching Zane Tetevano [debut for the Roosters], or Darren Nicholls get a shot a year or so ago up at the Brisbane Broncos, same as Leivaha Pulu [at the Gold Coast Titans].
“It’s great to see some of the boys come from here and get a shot living the dream.”
Josh Mantellato is a massive signing for Wyong after spending two seasons in the Super League. Joe Burgess and Brendan Elliott were Sydney Roosters players who departed the club in the middle of last season, while key players such as Tyler Cornish, Abraham Papalii, Omar Slaimankhel and Joey Lussick have all moved on.
The Roos lost some key players over the off-season, but they still have a classy outfit that can cause some serious damage. Taylor and Williams should guide Wyong to a finals position in 2017.