Ben Whaler is confident that he and co-coach Adam Edwards won’t have to change too much as Nelson Bay aim to build on a breakthrough 2018 Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union season.
The pair take over from Dave Sharp who stood down due to work and family commitments.
Edwards coached the Gropers before Sharp and both he and Whaler, a prop, will continue to play.
The Gropers finished fourth last season before knocked out in the minor semi-final by Maitland – the Bay’s first appearance in the finals since 2002.
Fly-half Michael Wiringi has retired but Whaler, 33, expects the rest of the squad, headed by Chad Nortcott, Nathan Oliver, Dan Collins, Michael Hotene and Jack Arthur, to be on deck.
“As a group, we gained a lot of experience out of last year,” Whaler said. “We don’t need to change too much. We will work on our defence but we certainly don’t want to complicate things. We have a really good, mobile forward pack. And with the strike power in our backs, it is a pretty easy game.”
Whaler, who came through the Western Force Academy before switching to rugby league and having stints at Tweed Heads, Kurri Kurri and Maitland, came out of retirement last year.
Edwards, who plays No.8, was one of the Gropers most consistent forwards.
“We both plan to keep on playing,” Whaler said. “You can’t coach while you play. We will have someone on the sideline running the bench and have scenarios set out on how we want the game to run. You have to trust the people running the bench.”
“When you are on the field, you have to play your own game. Your nine and ten are in charge of the team on the field.”
After their strong 2018 campaign, the Gropers will not be able fly under the radar.
“That is a good thing for the Bay,” Whaler said. “It means we are moving forward and being competitive with the top clubs. If you play hard, direct footy you will be competitive in every game you play. If you want to beat the likes of Hamilton, Merewether, Wanderers and Maitland, you can’t hide from them.”