Overview - With John Muggleton:
"We were fairly happy with where we finished compared to where we started. In that first game, we started the first 15 minutes by keeping the ball in play against players that were fitter than us and it was 24-0 before we knew it. At half time we got the message and ended up getting back to 38-30 in that game and then a bit of ill discipline cost us but from that game on, I think we played fairly consistently and played how we wanted to which was to restrict the opposition and put them under pressure at set piece and use our forwards to lay a base with hard running and smart offloads and that provided a bit of room for the backs eventually.
"If we looked at the whole year, we were quite happy with how competitive we were in the last four games, we were a little disappointed that there weren’t another two rounds to be honest because we were just starting to click.
"I don’t think we were unlucky, I think any time we were under the pump it was probably our own fault and when we played a good consistent game and played to our strengths, we had everyone that we played under the pump. I don’t think this year was as high scoring as previous seasons, I thought it was pretty tough defensively but most teams had sections of games when they scored back-to-back tries because the defence was exhausted. This year however, teams were able to bounce back from that and work their way back into the match. In previous years, once a team got on top, they usually raced away and put on a massive score.
"Our set piece was terrific. There was one game that it let us down but I think we were able to create a platform from it and I think we used it pretty well. We used our size to zap energy out of the opposition and then mauled and scrummed well and we were able to gain good field positions from that. Apart from that, I think our forwards ball running was as good as anyone in the comp, we got over the advantage line and provided good offloads. Our backrow, Rhys Allen, Tyrone Viiga and Tupou Sopoaga were fantastic and Will (Skelton) and Senio (Toleafoa) were both great when we had them as well. I was happy with our front row as well. Brendan (Paenga-Amosa) is a good ball carrier and Matt (Gibbon) and David (Lolohea) were good as well.
"I thought our kicking game put us under more pressure than it did the opposition, that was something that we had to change during the season. Particularly when we had the ball and the defensive line was strong, that kick when we weren’t on the front foot really hurt us. We tended to hit the fullback rather than grass and then he was attacking against tired forwards. You saw that in the last game against NSW Country. You can’t give Reece Robinson or Andrew Kellaway space in that situation because they’ll go 80 or 90 against you.
"I think Tyrone Viiga was outstanding. The entire backrow were good, as was David Lolohea. In the backs, I think they all had their moments but the surprise package was Luke Smart on the wing. He finished very well, nobody would have picked that at the start of the season so well done to him, he was a rock for us after he got his chance through injury. He really stood up and was a good influence on everyone around him. Scotty Gale was coming good until he did his shoulder but I think everyone played to their ability by the end of the competition. It’s not easy for Shute Shield players to match Super Rugby players but our guys gave it a good crack."
Which of your players deserve to play rugby at a higher level?
"David Lolohea, with his football ability and his football knowledge and the way he reads the game, if he was a full time footballer with a full time football and weights program, he would be outstanding. He was matching it with full time professionals in the scrum and in the open field but he was still working most nights in security. He would get home and have a few hours sleep and then we was up and out there matching it with the best. If you put him in a full time program, I think we would be outstanding.
"Tyrone Viiga is another one who definitely could. He is a big strong lad but he doesn’t do the quality or quantity of weights that he should and if he was in a full time program, I think you’d see great strides in him as well."
What can the Rams do to improve, on and off the field?
"I think recruitment for me is a big one, it was my first time putting a team together and while I was happy with what we had, certainly in terms of depth, we had a few holes. We didn’t get our team together early enough either. We’ll be looking to keep the spine of the team together for next year so I think that will help with our preparation. We need to begin during the club season and then hopefully we won’t be playing our best footy at the end of the season when it is too late. Our preparation should be a lot better next year."
Was the NRC a success in 2016 and can it get better?
"I don’t agree with a lot of the criticism I am hearing about the NRC. If you watch the games this year, there was a lot of good defence and a lot of good attack and I think players are better prepared for Super Rugby as a result. The rules make it an attack centric game but I think everyone stepped up defensively this year and took on board previous criticism. Those criticising need to get to the games and to training to see what is actually happening at the clubs because I’m confident the competition is creating better footballers.
"The best part of it was the spirit after the games and the interaction between the teams after the games, that was outstanding. It was old-style rugby where you try and bash each other on the field and really compete hard, then have a beer together after. I think if that carries through to the levels above, that will get the spirit of rugby back to where it should be and that is why people play."