“On the cusp of something special”, says Pollard

As ACT Rugby Union holds its collective breath for the confirmation of Round 1 this Saturday, the Eagles are in a promising position throughout the grades and ready to take to the field.

Gungahlin’s preseason 2.0 is drawing to a close, and it’s hard to go past the sheer numbers of the playing group and the energy they bring on a Tuesday and Thursday night as an indicator of the club’s health.

Gungahlin Eagles General Manager, Trent Pollard, credits the coaches and volunteers for the depth and positivity across the squads.

“When the news of COVID-19 was coming through in late February we had no idea what was going to happen, or if we’d have a season at all. Then we got the go-ahead to continue training and we didn’t know if the players and volunteers would come back at all”,

“Now that we’re on the verge of round one, it’s been a great relief and point of pride that so many people have returned and new faces have arrived”,

“Our coaches have been amazing in communicating with the players, and our volunteers have done everything in their power to look after our members’ health and keep them safe.”

^ The coaches, General Manager and President after the 2019 2nd Grade premiership

For ease of social distancing and to minimise contact, the club has been split up into three squads for training; Black squad (Premier Div), Red squad (1st Div), and the Women’s program. Start times and point of entry are staggered and strict cleaning measures are in place.

On gameday, the concept of squads are thrown aside and the 130+ strong playing group will become one whole club again to play and watch each grade’s matches.

Pollard says “I hear stories about our club back in the 80’s and it’s talked about as the ‘golden era’. 1st Grade were an absolute force in that decade which is awesome, but what I love hearing about are the teams playing 2nd and 3rd Grade in that decade. They were best mates, spent plenty of time off the field together, they were fiercely competing for spots, and they won premierships for fun”,

“It shocks me that guys like Terry Fox, Matt Hutchison, Phil Griffin, Michael Jamieson… the list goes on of guys who were out-and-out 1st Graders that played a fair bit and won premierships in 2nd and 3rd Grade”,

“You look at the names of our 2nd Grade 1985 premiership side. That is a team that would give most 1st Grade sides a serious shake”,

“You couldn’t be blamed for looking at our current set of players who are 18-24 years old, and looking at the talent and numbers of our other grades and thinking ‘Gee-whiz, if these players stick at it for 5, 10, 15 years, we’ve got to be on the cusp of something special”,

“The Eagles won the 2nd Grade premiership in ’81, ’83, and ’84 before our first-ever John I Dent Cup flag. That’s how it works, and that’s the depth we’re keen to build, and Marco is doing a great job leading that”.

Eagles Director of Rugby, Troy Atkins, says the thing that will please him the most in 2020 isn’t on-field performance or results.

“As a coaching unit, we’re obviously ambitious about what the playing group can achieve, but that’s not the focus right now”,

“If we demonstrate good leadership, keep our players hungry to win together, and learn about the game and each other each and every week the results will take care of themselves”,

“Selections were really tough this week, possibly the most difficult we’ve ever experienced, but that’s what makes a strong club”,

“When you’ve got good numbers, and every player just wants the club to do well and will give you 100% in any grade, they’ll naturally come together and enjoy their rugby”

“That’s what we’re striving for. We want to see players loving their rugby union”.

The Eagles kick off 2020 this Saturday 18 July at Jamison Oval against Wests.

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