Grit and determination characterised the Sunnybank side of 2020, and the Dragons will look to take both of those traits into this season.
Although the side were unable to break through for as many wins as they deserved, their ability to stay in the contest ensured the Bankers remained one of the competition’s toughest sides and has laid the platform for more success in 2021.
The club will have to do it without last year’s skipper Tom Lucas, who is taking some time away from Rugby, while key forwards Zac Shepherd, Josateki Murray and Simana Halaifonua have also moved on.
After a number of seasons playing in the United Kingdom, powerful lock Josh Fenner has returned to the Bank to bring some starch to their pack, while Dave Feao will also bring professional experience to the front row.
Head coach Sione Fukofuka is back for his second season with the Dragons, with his technical proficiency holding the side in good stead in 2021.
This is what Fukofuka has to say about his side’s approaching campaign.
2020 REVIEWA series of narrow losses soured the Sunnybank season in 2020, with Fukofuka and his team learning plenty.
With a number of key recruits in the pack, the side will look to improve and gain ascendancy off their set-piece.
“The big learnings from 2020 were the importance of a strong scrum and line out,” the head coach said.
“Easts exerted pressure in both these areas and built momentum off them.
“We were happy with how we finished the season in both these areas but need to be better from the start and have worked hard to ensure we have a good set piece platform to play off and defend from.”
2021 FOCUSSparky attack and stubborn defence will be key for the Bankers this season, with the side looking for dominance on both sides of the ball.
“Our focus is to play Sunnybank Rugby: up-tempo attack, skilful counter and physical hard-working defence,” Fukofuka said.
“We want to be a smart team and play off a strong set piece to build pressure and score points, then defend them.
“Pre-season has been really positive. The boys have worked hard at building a good physical base and really embraced the detail in the physical conditioning.
“Rugby wise we have worked hard on upskilling our squad, building depth, learning the content and improving our capacity to make good decisions consistently.
“It’s been pleasing to see our set-piece grow in confidence and the players owning that space.”
RECRUITSJosh Fenner – Wasps
Lawrence Tominiko – Southern Districts
Nese Solia – Melbourne
Tevita Ahosivi – Easts
Connor Mulhern – Newcastle
Tametai Lomax – Manly
Lathaniel Tiatia – Oz Tag/Sevens
Ravu Vueta – Easts
Jason Lim – Souths
LOSSESTom Lucas – sabbatical
Zac Shepherd – Randwick
Josateki Murray – work
Simana Halaifonua – retired
Rex Tapuai – coaching
PLAYER TO WATCH – JOSH FENNERJosh Fenner returns from a stint in England with the Wasps ready to leave his mark on the Hospital Cup competition.
“A player to watch for us will be Josh Fenner and his ability to exert physical pressure on and off the ball,”
“He’s a big body and has come back from the UK with lots of experience.
“His lineout work is also an attribute that will be important for the team’s success.”
OPPOSITION PLAYER TO WATCH – PHOENIX HUNTAs a former assistant coach at Easts, Fukofuka knows the promise and potential of young halfback Phoenix Hunt.
Stuck behind Eli Pilz at the Tigers, Hunt has made the move to Crosby Park, and Fukofuka believes he will bring plenty to the Brethren this season.
“He will add another dimension to an already good team with his pass, decision making and ability to kick.
After playing behind Eli, Phoenix will be up for a big season back in Premier Grade.”