WALLABIES legend David Campese has joined the Newcastle Wildfires in a consultancy role as coach Scott Coleman gets to work preparing an underdone outfit for their return to the Shute Shield against Randwick in three weeks.
After weeks of toing and froing between the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union board and local clubs, the Wildfires' place in the Sydney competition for the first time since 1999 was confirmed on Thursday. Newcastle colts (under-20s) and women are also playing in the abbreviated season.
Campese will work with the backline of all three squads and will attend his first session at Passmore Oval on Saturday.
"I'm looking forward to get involved and seeing the young talent come through," said Campese, who does not recall playing against the Wildfires during his days at Randwick. "It's a positive that they are back in the Sydney competition. The fact that it's a shortened season might be better for them. Once you start getting injuries it can be tough if you don't have the player base that stretches forever. I just want to help them anyway I can."
As well as Campese, who is the Wallabies' record try-scorer with 64, former Australian sevens captain Ed Jenkins will work with the group on Saturday.
Coleman is trying to pack as much as he can into the next three weeks.
"I'm relieved that our position is confirmed," Coleman said. "We could have been a lot more advanced but we are being positive and moving forward. We have three weeks to knuckle down and get ready. We have been getting 32 to training most nights and have a trial against Penrith on July 11."
In a tough reintroduction to the Shute Shield, the Wildfires are away to Randwick, before consecutive home games against Eastwood and Sydney University and then two on the road to Manly and Norths.
"We are concentrating on defence initially and implementing some basic structure," Coleman said. "We are not going too elaborate with any attacking shape or anything like that. We want to get the basics right. From next week, we are getting stuck into our set piece."
Coleman is in talks with a couple of players in a bid to "add depth to the tight five".
"We have 38 in the squad and hope to get a couple more," Coleman said. "We will look at rotating the squad. There might be three or four blokes who play the whole 12 games. Some might play 10 some might play eight. Everyone will get at least one or two games.
"It's important that we keep them fresh. They can go back to their clubs and have a run [in the Rams Cup] to get their confidence up as well. Hopefully, every week we have 32 enthusiastic guys ready to jump out of their skin."
"We will keep swapping them around. We have some handy outside backs in Rob Buasera. Nimi Qio, Hayden Cole, who was the leading try-scorer for Parramatta last year and Bill Coffey.
"You get them doing skills around each other and it lifts the standard. Even in the fitness, they are all trying to beat each other. There is lot of competition there which is awesome."
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