Friday Night Footy returns to the Charter Hall Shute Shield this evening, as a struggling West Harbour outfit welcomes the in-form Randwick under lights at Drummoyne Oval.
The Galloping Greens are coming off two straight, with wins over Warringah and Souths proceeding a narrow 3-point loss to the Hunter Wildfires.
It was the second 3-point defeat of Randwick’s season, with a 20-17 loss to Gordon in Round Five marking another narrow loss for the Wicks.
Randwick head coach, Ben McCormack, admits while his squad are content with their start to the season, disappointment lingers after two clear missed opportunities.
“We feel that we should be sitting on six wins, to be honest,” he said.
“We were in positions to win those two close defeats and we dropped the ball and lost momentum in each.
“In both, I’d say the team probably thought we were over the line and ultimately we were caught out on that.
“So, we are a little disappointed, but it’s certainly not panic stations. We have a skilful squad of players, and the combinations are certainly starting to gel.”
What will be pleasing to Randwick supporters is the manner in which their team have responded to the fortnight of narrow losses, in particular, a gutsy wet weather home victory against the Rats last weekend.
McCormack believes the last two rounds have shown growth within his young and developing squad.
“What’s positive already is that we’re starting to see improvement, particularly last weekend against Warringah,” he said.
“Those defeats were all about game management, particularly being aware of where the momentum is at within the match and being able to react accordingly.
“Unfortunately, on the field at the time, we were unable to see the momentum swing and control it.
“That’s an experience issue, so as long as we are continuing to learn from those critical mistakes, we will inevitably improve, I’m sure.”
If you’re a glass-half-full kind of operator, you’ll appreciate the fact Randwick have managed four wins despite easily one of the more difficult opening stretches of fixtures, having had to face Eastwood, Sydney University, Manly and the Wildfires in the opening six rounds.
Despite all these teams sitting above them on the Charter Hall Shute Shield ladder, the Wicks boast wins against both the Woodies and Marlins, the current joint ladder leaders.
Consequently, Randwick have a relatively favourable run to the Shute Shield Finals, with Eastwood and the Wildfires the only top-six sides who the Wicks are set to face twice.
But as season 2022 has shown, the Shute Shield is as competitive as ever, a fact McCormack knows will be demonstrated again this Friday against the Pirates.
“It’s a tricky stretch of games in what is overall a very competitive year,” he said.
“We’ve taken care of West Harbour in the last few seasons, but they have a knack of slowing the game down to a pace which suits them, so it’s certainly a dangerous game for us.
“They [West Harbour] have a couple of hundred kilograms on us in the forward pack, so there’s no doubt they’ll focus on that and we’re ready for that.
“Tactically, it’s an interesting year with all the wet weather footy that has been played. Perhaps that’s had some bearing on results, perhaps not.
“Despite that, it’s been good to see us adapt and overcome those tough teams early on.”
Another clear positive within the 2022 season to date has been the dominance of Randwick winger, Christian Yassmin.
Yassmin leads the Shute Shield try-scoring tally with 9 tries, including a double against Souths in Round Seven and a hat-trick against the Wildfires the week prior.
While McCormack admits Yassmin’s confidence is consistently “sky-high”, the winger's special run of form is certainly contributing to an increase of confidence on the field.
“His confidence is high all the time, regardless of his try-scoring tally,” he said.
“But that’s what you want in that position, if there’s one player who you can afford to be over-confident it’s your wingers because you want them to be hungry to score tries.
“His application at training and in the gym is perfect, so the fact he’s seeing the results on the field doesn’t surprise me at all.
“I wouldn’t trade ‘Yassy’ for anyone in the competition at the moment.”
Don’t miss any of the Round Nine action this weekend Ad-Free, Live and On-Demand on Stan Sport.
Round Nine Fixtures:
West Harbour v Randwick – Drummoyne Oval, Friday 7:35pm
Eastern Suburbs v Manly – Woollahra Oval, Saturday 3pm
Warringah v Wildfires – Pittwater Rugby Park, Saturday 3pm
Gordon v Sydney University – Chatswood Oval, Saturday 3pm
Souths v Eastwood – Forshaw Rugby Park, Saturday 3pm
Two Blues v Norths – Eric Tweedale Stadium, Saturday 3pm