Gunnedah Devils plan for super season

GUNNEDAH will have some new faces at the helm as they commemorate over a century since their formation.

Gunnedah's Cameron Mitchell takes on the Inverell defence as Matt Hannay looms in the background during last years Tier 2 prelminary final. The Red Devils are hoping for a big year on and off the field as they celebrate 125 years since the club was formed.  Photo: Samantha Newsam 160815SNA05

Gunnedah's Cameron Mitchell takes on the Inverell defence as Matt Hannay looms in the background during last years Tier 2 prelminary final. The Red Devils are hoping for a big year on and off the field as they celebrate 125 years since the club was formed. Photo: Samantha Newsam 160815SNA05

Club stalwart Bruce Hocking has stepped up to the presidency while Jason Waerea will take the first grade coaching reins.

It is a milestone year for the club – celebrating 125 years of Gunnedah rugby.

“Obviously not continuous but 125 years since the club was formed,” Hocking said.

They’ll be celebrating that on May 8.

“We’ve got a big day planned,” he said.

The festivities will include some old boys’ games and a ball that night.

Hocking heads a new-look board with five fresh faces on it, and is optimistic about the season.

“I think we’re going to have a great year,” he said.

“We weren’t far off the mark last year.”

Waerea takes over from Tim Walsh and Nik Hannaford, who have decided to take a step back.

Born in New Zealand, he came across the Tasman when he was eight.

He’s been living in Gunnedah since April 2014 after moving there for work.

“I’m part of the Maules Creek start-up team,” he said.

Passionate about rugby, his intention was always to get involved with the Red Devils in some capacity, although he didn’t necessarily have the first grade coaching role in mind.

But when it became vacant he put his hand up.

A Queensland U17s rep during his younger days, Waerea played most of his senior football at breakaway.

“I started out as a centre and, as happens, someone didn’t rock up one day and someone said ‘you could be a forward’,” Waerea said.

So he gave it a go, enjoyed it and stayed there.

He got the chance to meet the players last week, with the club holding a sausage sizzle and get-together.

It was a chance to have a bit of a chat and talk about when they’ll start and for Waerea to raise his “must dos”.

One thing he did make clear to them is that if they haven’t been running around “get running around”.

Fitness will be a big focus for him.

From what he observed of them last year that’s where they fell down. Their skill level was good, he said.

“It’s more about their endurance and maintaining their intensity for a long  period of time,” he said.

“They know in their heart of hearts endurance was the biggest thing that let them down.”

The first and third quarters of their games they were competitive, but the second and fourth quarters they tended to fade.

He isn’t looking to overhaul their style, it’s more about refining the details.

The indications he’s had is that they should have the core of last year’s side backing up.

 The likes of Jamie Mitchell, Peter Hughes and Jeremy Brown are also ready to go after being  on the paddock little or not at all last season.

“There’s a new second-rower-come-prop from the Hunter Valley – he’s keen to get into it,” Waerea said.

They’ll start training in February and, as far as the pre-season, have got their 10s tournament on March 19.

“We’ve had a lot of interest so far from teams,” Hocking said. 

The Armidale Knockout the previous weekend is also on the radar.

“I’d love to get to the 15s but we need to make sure we’ve got enough bodies,” Waerea said.

Second grade also has a new coaching team, with Alex Costello and Josh Launders looking  after them.