In 2017 we want to give people an insight into the Smarter than Smoking Premiership through our Coaches
The first is from the Rockingham Sharks Head Coach Darren Shaw who is no stranger to being an underdog.
The nuggetty former second-rower was part of a famous Sheffield Eagles Challenge Cup victory over the ‘unbeatable’ Wigan Warriors at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1997.
So he’s happy to be an underdog in 2017, as his blend of youth and experience comes together for a tilt at the NRLWA Premiership.
It’s Shaw’s second season at the helm of the Sharks and one he believes could bear fruit.
2016 saw the retirement of several senior players and the need to blood some talented youngsters.
“It took a while for them to understand what we required and for the team to gel,” Shaw said, looking back on a season that saw the club miss out on finals football.
“But we came home with a wet sail and upset a few towards the end of the year. Another week or two and we would have made it.”
2017 is a different proposition, but one with similar challenges.
Some have moved on and Rockingham have brought in several key players – forward Ben Bolth from Newcastle, James Deighton from Hull KR in England and the club has re-signed playmaker Caleb Reedy to help steer the team across the park.
“Caleb’s not the only one who will do that,” admitted Shaw.
“JD (Deighton) is another and we have some strong voices out there who will make the calls.”
Shaw admits pre-season has not been easy.
The Harmony Nines took players off to their respective teams and that disrupted many a senior coach’s planning, although the positives of the tournament will outweigh the negatives.
“We just might see clubs using Rounds 1 and 2 as pre-season games, still,” Shaw said. “As they find their feet in what has been a pretty short build-up.”
The likeable Shaw is forever the optimist though, not letting a pre-season of stop and start get to him.
“We have to work with what we’ve got and I am happy,” he said.
“We still need a couple of players, especially out wide and in the centres but we’re looking so I’m confident that will happen.”
So will the Sharks be up there challenging for a flag this season?
“Why not, for sure. If we can pick up where we left off last season, then we will a tough team to beat,” he said.
“We know what we’ve got to do and we’ve set high standards. it will be a tough season, we know that – but let’s get out there now and play some footy.”