The Race To The Shute Shield Finals is On

Wed, Jun 12, 2024, 3:27 AM
NSW Rugby
by NSW Rugby

After a weekend off rugby over the June long weekend, the race to the Shute Shield finals heats up from Saturday.

All 12 teams have 9 games to play their way into the top six and if the first half of the season is anything to go by, there’s not going to be much in it.

Here are a few things to keep your eye on in the backend of the regular season.

Will Warringah’s dominance continue?

Despite inheriting a side that missed the finals last season, new Rats coach Josh Holmes has somehow turned Warringah into the team to beat in the Shute Shield at the halfway point of the regular season.

The Rats have lost just once this so far this year and play six of their last nine matches at home at Rat Park in the run towards the finals.

Are Easts the real deal?

Easts also have a new coach and are back in the mix after a number of lean seasons at Woollahra Oval.

Ben Batger has the Beasties sitting third with six wins after nine rounds.

He’s lost centres Harry Wilson and Mosese Tuipulotu to contracts overseas but he should see more of halves Teddy Wilson and Jack Bowen in the months ahead.

What impact will rep players have on the competition?

Representative players from Australia’s Super Rugby franchises and from competitions all around the world will start filtering back in to the Shute Shield in the coming weeks.

As mentioned previously, Easts will be one of the big beneficiaries if they get all of their Super stars back but plenty of other clubs will also welcome back players from Australia and abroad.

Interestingly, most of these rep players won’t have experienced the new tackle laws, which lowered the legal tackle height in the Shute Shield to below the sternum. There may be some teething issues for some big names as they adjust.

Are Randwick and Norths returning to Leichhardt Oval?

Last year’s grand finalists Randwick and Northern Suburbs sit fifth and sixth respectively at the halfway point of the regular season.

They’ve been good this year, but not great.

Randwick have won five and lost four. Norths have won four, lost four and drawn one.

Both sides have plenty of depth and class. But they haven’t played their best rugby yet this season and have some work to do if they want to finish at the pointy end of the Shute Shield ladder.

Who’s playing finals, who’s missing out?

After nine rounds, just five competition points separates Randwick in fifth and Hunter in 10th.

Souths and West Harbour are also still in the hunt but will need to start winning quickly.

It’s going to be a tight race to the finals and some very good rugby sides are going to miss out on the top six.

Who those sides are is anyone’s guess at this point in time.

Typically 10 wins guarantees a Shute Shield side a spot in the finals in an 18-round season. But when it’s super tight, like it was in 2019, that number can be as low as 8 wins.

Regardless, every side from fifth down will need to win more games than they lose in the next nine weeks to safely book a spot in the playoffs, which might be easier said than done in a competition as tight as this one.