Students in Rebuilding Mode

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With the loss of 12 First Graders from the undefeated 2021 side, Sydney University Football Club will be looking to unearth some new talent for the 2022 Shute Shield, which starts this Saturday with a trip to Pittwater Rugby Park for the season opener against Warringah.

Having gone through 10 rounds of the Covid-shortened 2021 season without a loss, Sydney University saw a mass departure of players to overseas clubs. And with a host of players competing with Australian teams in the Super Rugby competition, the club’s ranks will be stretched this year.

The Students will not unveil a host of new players, they will welcome a new head coach in Sean Hedger, who will be joined by Mark Bakewell, Damien Hill and Laurie Weeks looking after the First Grade ranks.

SUFC Director of Rugby Nick Ryan, a former SUFC First Grade coach, said Hedger has an outstanding track record of developing young players and improving talent. “That is something that is key for our Club this season,” Ryan said. “Sean’s experience at both community and professional levels in many facets of the game will add significant value to our rugby program and we are excited to see him excel with SUFC.”

Hedger began his coaching career as Rugby Co-ordinator of the Queensland Reds Rugby College, before assuming the role of Rugby Program Head Coach from 2003 to 2005. He then relocated to Japan, fulfilling multiple coaching roles with Kobelco Steelers over five seasons. He returned to Australia in 2012, where he held several roles with the ARU, including, National Academy Head Coach (NSW), Australian Under 20 Assistant Coach and Coach Development Manager, before joining the Melbourne Rebels as Attack and Backs Coach ahead of the 2014 Super Rugby season. Later that year he also took up the Head Coach role with the Melbourne Rising in the inaugural season of the National Rugby Championship. He was Director of Rugby at Bond University for five years and most recently was Attack and Backs Coach at Kintetsu Liners in Osaka, finishing the season in 1st place in 2020 and 2nd in 2021.

“I am extremely excited to be joining the Sydney Uni rugby program,” Hedger said. “I have been an admirer of SUFC for many seasons and have seen the club as the benchmark in Australian Club Rugby for many years. The Club’s on-field success is no accident. The Colts and Grade rugby programs have been first class for years, resulting in a ‘production line’ of talent for Australian and overseas rugby franchises.

“Coaching at Sydney Uni is as close to a professional program as possible in Club rugby, and some experts believe SUFC to be superior in their practices to some professional outfits. I look forward to contributing to the Club and helping all players and coaches progress and achieve both group and individual goals.”

With several trial matches cancelled due to the weather, Sydney University has managed to fit in trials against Eastwood and Southern Districts.

They lost 19-14 on the bell to the Woodies and accounted for Southern Districts 26-17 at Forshaw Rugby Park on Saturday after trailing 17-7 at the break.

With 12 teams confirmed for the 2022 Shute Shield, the season will be played across 18 rounds with the Grand Final will be played on 3 September.