27.03.2008 – Graham Croker
Sydney University will begin its defence of the Shute Shield against Manly at Manly Oval on Saturday, with youth and experience dominating selection.
Four of the 2007 Colts premiership side – hooker Nathan Charles, second-rower Ben McCalman, centre Mitch Inman and winger Haydon Bushell – have been selected in the starting line-up, while 44-Test veteran David Lyons will come off the bench after a frustratingly long time off with leg injuries.
First Grade coach Damien Hill says the four Colts have been selected on form, with McCalman, Charles and Inman still eligible to play Under 19s.
“They’ve won selection after performing really well during the trials over the past month,” Hill said. “Based on NSW Rugby Union directions, we can only play David Lyons for 30 minutes. So we’ve decided to put him on the bench and introduce him to the game in the second half.”
The 105kg Charles, a 2006 Australian Schoolboy, played for the First XV Colts last season. Coach Hill says he has a high work rate for a front-rower and is a strong defender.
Bushell, 21, was also prominent in the 2006 premiership side, as was Inman, the brother of one of SUFC’s favourite sons, Luke. Mitch has already represented Australia Under 19s and Australia Sevens.
McCalman, a 2006 Australian Schoolboy, has been selected in the second-row, although he has played most of his football on the side of the scrum. At 194cm and 107kg he will more than hold his own at the scrum and lineout and provide plenty of spark around the park.
Three-time premiership-winning captain Tim Davidson, 25, will again lead the side, which is one of the youngest to represent the University since the days of the “undergraduates only” rules.
Jerry Yanuyanuwata (22) and Laurie Weeks (21) join Charles in the front-row; Lachlan McCutcheon (23) will partner McCalman in the second-row, with Patrick McCutcheon (20) and Jono Jenkins (21) joining Davidson as the loose forwards.
Nick Haydon (25) and Daniel P. Kelly (21) link up again as halves; Lachlan Mitchell (20) moves from wing to outside-centre to partner Inman, while wingers Bushell and Alfi Mafi (19) will be joined by Nathan Trist (25) at fullback.
They will be hoping to keep the home fires burning while Daniel Halangahu, Dean Mumm, Peter Playford, Jeremy Tilse, Alister Campbell, Will Caldwell, Phil Waugh, Daniel Vickerman, Tom Carter, David Dennis, Jone Tawake and Gareth Hardy play their wares in the Super 14 competition.
And spare a thought for second-rower Alex Kanaar, whose chronic knee injury forced him the call it quits before a ball was passed in the 2008 season – a great disappointment for him and a great loss for Sydney University and Australian rugby.
The 2008 Shute Shield will run for 22 rounds culminating with a six-team finals series commencing on September 6, leading to the grand final on September 20.
After opening their campaign at Manly Oval on Saturday, Sydney University will meet West Harbour at Concord Oval on April 5, before playing their first home game, against Parramatta, at No.1 oval on April 12.