A FITNESS focused pre-season has the Albury Wodonga Steamers approaching full pace ahead of their round 1 clash with the Wagga Waratahs this weekend.
With experienced trio Nathan Bright, Tom Rowan and Lucas Boye all moving on after last season, ensuring the playing group is as fit as possible has been the focus of the summer months.
The players only touched the ball at training for the first time a few weeks ago, such was the intensity of the fitness regime, with coach Mick Raynes only then satisfied the players were ready to tackle game-situation training.
“With a smaller pack we’ve got to be more mobile, and being able to outlast your opponents is a part of that,” he said.
“I’m really happy with where we are at the moment, fitness is a huge part of winning games early in the season.
“We’ve lost a bit of grunt through the scrum, but on the other hand we’ve picked up some blokes who have some good skills across the park, so we’ll see how they play into it as the season goes on.”
Raynes said the Steamers would be something of an unknown until the first few rounds had been completed, due to the turnover of players.
“It’s a bit of a wait-and-see thing at the moment in terms of how our form will be in certain areas of the ground,” he said.
“We pride ourselves on our ability to win the ball from the lineout, I think we’re building a solid second row so despite the reduction in size I don’t think our overall game plan will change, at least not in the short term.
“We’ve been concentrating on a simple defensive pattern and set plays.
“Simple rugby is good rugby.”
The return of James Olds and the addition of Englishman Dave Coyle has buoyed Raynes’ hopes, but he wasn’t expecting a miraculous first-up effort from his team.
“The players are ready for it, but I’m sure there will be a few drops and fumbles from both sides,” the coach said.
“It’s always hard to win in round 1, but we’ll get to Thursday night and the guys will remember how fierce our rivalry is with Waratahs, and our new players will learn how much it means to beat them.
“But on game day, it’ll come down to who wants it more.”
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