Stags with point to prove against the Shute Shield favourites

by Declan Armstrong

Charter Hall Shute Shield action returns this Saturday with a scintillating matchup set for Sydney University Oval, as the undefeated Students welcome the 2020 premiers, Gordon. 

The Students have not put a foot wrong so far in 2021, boasting a ladder leading 40-points from eight matches, the latest a 57-17 romping of Randwick at Coogee Oval. 

But Stags breakaway, James Lough, believes his side have prepared well to bring down the Uni juggernaut. 

“We know they’re a very structured side, so we’ve spent a lot of time trying to distinguish how to disrupt that focus,” he said. 

“They [Uni] seem to panic when you disrupt their structure and we’ll be targeting that.” 

Gordon have experienced a interrupted opening nine rounds, with key injuries to the likes of Lough, Jordan Goddard and Reece MacDonald halting much of the Stags momentum. 

The latest injury set back has again fallen the way of flyhalf MacDonald, who after returning from a significant hand injury in Round Eight, suffered a broken eye-socket in the sides most recent loss to the Woodies. 

“He’s [MacDonald] a class act and we’ll miss him out there on Saturday,” Lough admits. 

“Young Ben Pollack will step up for us once again which is exciting. He’s a good long-term investment for our Club so it’ll be a good test for him this Saturday.

“Our early season injuries have definitely impacted the cohesion our side has been able to develop, but we’re starting to build consistency in key areas which is promising.” 

However, the Students have experienced their own share of disruption recently, with the departure of Head Coach, Rob Taylor. 

Taylor was recently appointed as Head Coach of the NEC Green Rockets in Japan’s Top League, leaving Students Skills Coach, Phil Blake, in charge for the remainder of 2021. 

But for Lough and his Gordon counterparts, a brutally consistent Uni side is again expected come Saturday. 

“The Students have been the best Club in the competition for a fair while, so we don’t expect much different from them under new coaching,” he said. 

“Whenever you face Uni you approach it as a Finals match, that’ll be no different this weekend.” 

Having suffered losses to likely Finals sides in Norths and Eastwood so far this season, the Stags will be looking to prove themselves against the competitions best this weekend. 

With only 2-points separating Easts, Gordon, Eastwood and Warringah on the ladder, a missed opportunity against the Students may see the Stags fall further down the Finals placings. 

“We feel we’ve got a lot to prove after our losses this season,” Lough said. 

“We let the Woodies bully us in attacking rucks and we dropped our standards at set piece.

“As a side we’ve identified those areas and know what we need to execute to ensure those errors stay our of our game.  

“This weekend’s match is certainly a Finals preparation for our side, we can’t wait.” 


Sydney University 

1. Tom Osborne 
2. Declan Moore
3. Matt Sandell
4. Luke Porter
5. Luke Ratcliff
6. Vili Cocker
7. Jack McCalman
8. Nick Champion de Crespigny
9. Henry Robertson
10. Ben Hughes
11. Henry Clunies-Ross
12. Ofa Manuofetoa
13. Eddie Poolman
14. Matt Hood
15. Tim Clements


1. Brandon Fa'avae-Eli
2. Will Bremner
3. Rhys Brodie
4. Jack Margin
5. Ola Tauelangi
6. James Lough
7. Tom Silk
8. Jordan Goddard
9. Jacob Abel
10. Ben Pollack
11. Brandon Quinn
12. Kevin Fuavao
13. Joey Walton
14. Mike Pavlakis
15. Jaline Graham

Sydney Uni host Gordon this Saturday at Sydney University Oval No 2 – 3pm.

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