The NHRU season kick-off has been delayed until at least May 2. The majority of clubs have finalised their squads. The competition will again feature nine clubs but the finals series has been reduced to four teams. The Herald is taking a close look at each of the clubs in the lead-up. Here is Merewether.
The Greens have taken a new direction. Johan Lourens takes the reins and will be assisted by Blake Creighton, Jamie Lind, Steve Barretto and Ben Bowen.
Q&A - Backs coach Blake Creighton
The coaching staff is new and hasn't worked together before. How will the dynamic function?
Johan is the head coach and he has a few of us in specialty roles. I will work with the backs, Jamie will focus on the loose forwards, Steve is handling the front row and Ben also does some stuff with the forwards. We all buy in on the patterns and style. It's something we haven't really offered the players before - more specialised areas of training.
You boast a strong pack, especially with the two new boys up front. Nick Dodson played for the Canberra Vikings in the NRC and Dave Puchert is former Australian under-20s prop. What type of game are you looking to play?
We are winding the clock back about 10 years. We have always had strong backs. Even losing someone like Strachanny, we still have Sam Rouse, Ethan Fowles and Kosta Sykiotis. That is where we see our strength, those wide areas. We want to get those boys as much ball as possible. They didn't see much of it towards the end of last year. Having the props, Nick and Dave, come in has bolstered the scrum. You can have all the speed in the world, but if you are getting the ball on the back foot, it's very hard.
Jay Strachan has been a go-to man for the best part of a decade. How will you cover the loss of him and the departure of captain Jarome Wilson?
Sam Bright is a good leader and is back after missing most of last season with a hand injury. He is part of a leadership group which includes Jason Milligan and Billy Dunn. Picking up the two boys in the front-row was also handy. They are both natural leaders and we are getting a fair bit of chat from them. It also gives the likes of Lachy Milton and Lachy Miller an opportunity to play greater roles.
Merewether have finished either third or fourth in the past few seasons. How do you take the next step?
Most of our pre-season discussion has been around that aspect - what we have been doing has been good, but it's not good enough. Johan has pretty much wiped the slate. Forget what we have done in the past, let's bring in new concepts. A lot of that is around ball movement, staying alive, staying in the play. Going away from one-out hit ups and looking to be a bit more expansive.
The Greens aren't that far off. Their for and against stacks up with the best in the competition. Nailing the key moments in big games, is where they have fallen short. Losing game-breakers Jay Strachan and Jarome Wilson won't help on that front. However, the new props should ensure Sam Bright gets front-foot ball at the set pieces and allow him to shift the ball to edges quickly where they have speed to burn. The ingredients are there for a strong campaign. Whether they jump to the next level will hinge on the progression of rising stars - Milton, Miller, Rouse, Fowles and Eli McCulloch.