Laurie Daley Cup Preview – Southern Pool

Updated: February 15, 2019

Western Rams

Inaugural Andrew Johns Cup-winning Coach Kurt Hancock has stepped up to take charge of the Laurie Daley Cup side in 2019 and is hoping to continue the winning culture he built throughout last season.

“Getting exposure as individual is great but we can only do that if we’re doing well as a team,” said Hancock.

“The more we do as a team, the more people are getting exposure and end up following their dreams through the pathway to an NRL system,” Hancock said.

Some familiar faces will be returning to the side, with the likes of Campbell Woolnough and Nick Barlow joined by former Andrew Johns Cup players Jack Hartwig and Rylee Blackhall and players who are new to representative football.

Hancock believes the new representative format, along with the Rams relationship with the Penrith Panthers is motivating Western players to join and stay in the representative pathway.

“There are players in the squad this year that have gone away and trained really hard and worked their way into the team because they can see the pathway.

“Having the Panthers in the background and the players knowing there is an NRL pathway…  you can’t explain what that does for them.

“It really motivates them to not only be a good player but to better themselves as people as well and the relationship is only going to get better, which will make the competition even more sustainable.”


Penrith Panthers

New Penrith Panthers Coach Robert Taylor is eager to start the season with a well-disciplined group of players, who got their first taste of regional rugby league in the off-season.

“We travelled out to Oberon a few weeks ago, and it was a good trip, we played some really good footy,” Taylor said.

“Just the boys on the bus being around each other, it’s a good feeling within the group so I’m looking forward to it and I know they are as well.”

Taylor coached the Panthers Tarsha Gale side to a win in 2017 and through to the Semi-Finals last season, but believes the Laurie Daley competition is not all about winning.

“It’s not about winning or losing for us, its more about getting skilled up and developed for future football, as well as giving everyone an opportunity and game time.

“To win we would be rapt… but I think we just want to improve as we go throughout the season and try to get better at what we’re doing on and off the field.”


Riverina Bulls

‘Eat well, sleep well, play well’ is the motto Riverina Coach Tim Humphries encourages his players to live by and hopes this attitude will help his team on the field in 2019.

Humphries has worked hard on and off the field in the off-season to provide social and emotional support for his players, something he believes to be an important element of coaching.

“It’s not only about the rugby league, you have a big impact on their lives – employment, recruitment and a whole range of things,” Humphries said.

“I take it on board and provide some guidance and mentoring, not only as Coach, but I try and provide some life skills for them; that’s the thing I missed not coaching last year.”

The players have been using Anytime Fitness to improve their strength in the off-season and had the pleasure of Ricky Stuart and Brett White attending a training session; which Humphries says was all great preparation for the upcoming season.

“It has been fantastic having Anytime Fitness on board, just to be able to add that strength and conditioning for their fitness and the skill development; Anytime Fitness have been brilliant and very accommodating.

“It’s been a really positive relationship with the Raiders in the off-season and it was brilliant to have them come out to a training session.”


Monaro Colts

The Monaro Colts will once again be Coached by Group 16 stalwart Jason Kelly, who says a great atmosphere at the Monaro Academy has been created since the team has been training alongside the Women’s and Under-23’s Representative sides for the first time.

The Colts have also developed an app with training modules for the players that includes strength training to be done at their local Anytime Fitness Gyms.

“The players are given a list of their local gyms to access in their own time so this initiative, along with the app, has made a massive difference to their pre-season training,” Kelly said.

Kelly is hoping to start the season well, with a focus on individual goals during games rather than one overarching goal.

“We’ve put a lot hard work in; the boys are keen to get out there and start the real stuff.”

Players to watch include newly-inducted Captain Brad Buckley and halfback Connor Williams.


GSR Wests Tigers

GSR Wests Tigers Coach Wayne Azzopardi coached the Andrew Johns Cup side last year but will oversee the Laurie Daley Cup side in 2019, who he says are itching to get out on the field.

“We have a young squad, with a good balance of players that have been in systems with the Wests Tigers, Wests Magpies and CRL groups for the last few years so I’m really excited to see how they perform,” Azzopardi said.

Azzopardi has experience coaching this age group since recently mentoring the Under-18’s Camden Rams and believes the key to success will be to begin the season strongly.

“One of the things I keep instilling in the boys is that we really want to start well.

“We need to start strong and put on a good show in our first game this weekend and roll on from there.”

With a program that aligns with the Wests Tigers NRL training schedule and drills, the Tigers will be looking to put Riverina to the test on Saturday.


Illawarra South Coast Dragons

Glenn Buffolin’s 2018 Andrew Johns Cup Illawarra South Coast Dragons side had an impressive five regular round games and made it to the Final where they were defeated by Western Rams.

This year, Buffolin is prepared for the challenge of coaching the Laurie Daley Cup side, where a number of the 2018 Johns squad will test themselves alongside some older players.

“It’ a different squad – a good mix of older players and year young players but a really good group of young men,” Buffolin said.

Buffolin maintains each player has impressed him in their own way, with no stand-outs in an off-season where the focus has been on coming together.

“Our focus has been on team building more than anything.

“The players come from all different clubs and areas so we just try and instil that we are playing for a CRL Rep side, the Illawarra South Coast Dragons and that’s what we’ve got to try and focus on, that and becoming mates.”