With the Rising’s 2019 NRC campaign finished, we took the chance to sit down with Head Coach Pom Simona to reflect on the 2019 campaign.
How satisfied were you with the 2019 campaign?
I have been involved with Rising either as a player or coach for 5 years now and can honestly say 2019 was personally the most satisfying.
We had the least amount of time together (3 training sessions before Vikings) and the most amount of non-contracted players involved compared to other years but managed to come together quickly on an off the field and almost make it into the finals.
The 2019 was a great opportunity for us to confirm whether players had to the capacity to take the next level whether it be a contracted or non-contracted player. Individually there has been huge growth in such a short period in the people involved in the Rising program which transferred over to people being better players and the collective being a better team.
What we wanted to drive was people first and people enjoying what they are doing when they are in the Rising environment.
It would have been very easy for our group to lose hope and concentration given our start but we kept working hard whilst having fun knowing it was a matter of time before we’d get results. Ultimately we’re very disappointed to not be in finals but there were other positive outcomes achieved that we can be proud of.
A record number of Dewar Shield players debuted this year – how impressed were you with their contribution to the team environment?
One of the great stories of this campaign is the number of Dewar Shield players that got to play NRC.
It’s a massive incentive for players playing in or looking to play Dewar Shield that if they work hard and play well for their club the opportunity for them to play NRC is there. They players that got game time now know what the next level feels like so that should give them confidence to know they belong and a hunger for more.
The sights and sounds of our environment was largely driven by our Dewar boys and they brought a lot of laughter and culture to our environment. One of the special moments of our campaign was Willie Lewesi teaching our group a Fijian hymn which the players sang together with the Drua post game!
How did you go about bridging the gap between the professional contracted players and the club players?
We knew we wouldn’t have much time together as a team so it made the people we selected very important. We chose a lot of non-contracted players that had cohesion together or had a history of playing together previously.
We also wanted to bring players with a history to Melbourne and the Rebels back from interstate knowing they would have not only pride in playing for the Rising but already existing relationships with a lot of the contracted players. Our contracted players to their credit shared a lot of their knowledge and drove standards down which made our jobs easier.
What do you think this will do for the standard of the Dewar Shield?
It’s important that the Dewar Shield players now go back to their clubs and share the knowledge they have learnt during NRC so that knowledge is funnelled down to the rest of the club players.
A high tide raises all ships so for the Dewar Shield to continue to be a success we need Rising players to raise their team mate’s skills, standards and behaviour so we see more and more playing NRC and above in the years to come.
What was your highlight of the season?
My highlight was the growth we had during the season both on and off the field.
On field, I think our first half against the Drua was some of the best rugby we played all year. The personal growth in a lot of our players both contracted and non-contracted was also a highlight and I’ll use Semisi Tupou and Ross Haylett-Petty as examples, both players grew as leaders in NRC that will hopefully transfer over to Super Rugby in the years to come.
Off field the sights and sound of our group was of one that cared for each other and had fun together.
Towards the back end of the season you saw that care flow over to the on-field performances where they worked hard and didn’t want to let each other down.