As they prepare for another tilt at the the Australian Rugby Shield this October, the Victorian State Womens team must first navigate a tricky preseason that will see them bury their Lindroth Cup rivalries.
Reflecting on a campaign that has drawn toegther some of the states finest rugby talent, coach Greg Fergus knows the road to Adelaide will be steeped in hard work.
We chatted with the man himself, as the tournament draws closer.
Rugby Victoria (RV): 25 years since you last coached the women Ferg, what do you remember about that previous experience and how big a difference in standard is it now?
Greg Fergus (GF): The team 25 years ago were all fairly new to rugby and I was pretty new to coaching.
We had some players that had played interstate and overseas but most of the local players were still learning the game. The dedication these pioneers had to the game means that we have a legacy and a competition for the current players to participate in.
We have women’s and youth girls pathways that never existed back then. The difference now is that the individual skill level and rugby IQ is the highest it’s ever been because of opportunities like the youth tournaments and that the players now are playing more competitive games every week.
RV: After a brutal Lindroth campaign, how well your squad integrated? What methods have you implemented to help the team bond together in such a short time frame?
GF: The squad have integrated really well. They just love playing rugby and enjoying the friendships they make because of our great sport. It’s hard to get a word in sometimes!
We play lots of small sided games at training so the team are constantly mixing and competing against each other.
Our S & C Jose brings lots of energy and expertise to everything he does and my fellow coaches Ta and Elliot also bring so much excitement and professionalism to everything we do.
RV: How difficult has the selection process for the Australian Rugby Shield squad been?
GF: We named a fairly sizeable squad initially and through players having 7s commitments, injuries, work and family unavailability’s we are now near a position to name our final team.
We are grateful to RV pathways manager Cliff Viliamu for all the work he has done so far to give us the opportunity to play in Adelaide and for working with the Pac Cup committee to provide a valuable practice match against the Pacific cup women’s team on Friday.
This match will cement the positions in the team and the 26 players that will travel to the Australian Rugby Shield.
RV: How does a program like this benefit club teams? What skills are you hoping the women will take back with them into their clubs?
GF: We have a great mixture of experienced and younger players in the squad. For most, this is their first senior representative team and we have tried to bring new styles of play and skills to challenge them and build their rugby knowledge, plus help them to review and assess the way they think and act on the field.
If they can take different ideas back to the clubs and share knowledge with fellow players it can only benefit our club competition.
RV: Ta Tupou as an assistant coach...how has she gone in her first senior role coaching? How have the women responded to her?
GF: Ta is amazing. For someone so young and in her playing prime to put her hand up to coach, to challenge and improve herself is inspiring.
The team really respond to her. I’m like their old uncle and Ta is like the favourite cousin. Throw in Elliot Bull our forwards coach who brings new ideas and a fresh approach to develop our set piece and Jose challenging the girls with fitness standards we have a great group.
Our manager Jess “Mud” Dey brings it all together with her love and passion for the team and our sport and definitely keeps us all in line.
RV: If you had to earmark one or two players that have surprised you in camp, who would you nominate and why?
GF: The one thing I have found and enjoyed is all our young players who just love the game and approach it so differently but still get the work done but have so much fun doing it.
I have never seen so many TikTok’s being done and that was definitely something our players didn’t do 25 years ago!