SOUTHERN Beaches have brought in a handful of quality recruits but coach Ben Kinkade reckons the buy-in from the players already at the club has been the catalyst for their rapid progression.
Beaches are in rarified air, sitting top of the table and yet to concede a point after opening with resounding wins over University (27-0) and Lake Macquarie (86-0).
Cameron Murphy has joined Kinkade in the coaching ranks.
Recent arrivals, halfback Liam Cooper, lock Lucas Rosewall, winger Isaac Tipene and blockbustng No.8 Jacob Tatupu have added a new dimension.
Game-breakers Adrian Delore and Va Talaileva have returned after playing a COVID-19 disrupted 2020 with the Wildfires.
Experienced players Glenn Stone, Dane Le Rugetel, Jackson McLean and Pat Hines are also back in the fold.
"It has been a lift in all areas," Kinkade said. "Our coaching group has improved, players are bringing other players, former players are coming back and we made a few strategic recruitments.
"There has been a general buy in and lift in training and performance. Troy Lowrey has done a great job with our conditioning and we are a lot fitter. People like Peter Madden and Rob Richardson are improving with better players around them and better training. We were struggling to get 10 guys at training in 2019. Now we have 30 to 40 at every session."
Next for Beaches are Maitland at Ernie Calland Field on Saturday.
"Maitland are always tough," Kinkade said. "You definitely have to meet them up front. It is going to be a really good test for us. The biggest area we have improved is our defensive structure. We haven't had a point scored against us yet."
Maitland came back from 36-7 down at half-time against Hamilton to lose 41-36 last round.
Elsewhere Saturday, Merewether will field three debutants - Zac McGuinness, Oliver Crowe and Jock Wait - in their pack against University at Townson Oval.
Blooding new players has been a a constant for the Students who have gone down to Southern Beaches (27-0) and Nelson Bay (29-7) in the opening two rounds.
"We are starting from scratch," Uni coach Tony Munro said. "The culture is great. The boys are enthusiastic and working really hard. Some of the young guys who were kids - Joe Kingham and Tyrone Beitaki - have been in the gym and have grown up a bit. They will get better each week.
"Merewether will be another good test. They were very impressive in the win over Wanderers. It was everything you expect from a Greens side - strong at the breakdown, lots of ball movement and everything done at speed."
In the other games, Singleton travel to Strong Oval to take on Nelson Bay and Hamilton are at home to strugglers Lake Macquarie.
** Newcastle Uni will play the first round of the national finals of the AON women's sevens series in Sydney this weekend. Story at www.newcastleherald.com.
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