New Illawarra Coal Cutters Head Coach Ian Millward unveiled his new-look squad at the club’s season launch on Friday, highly impressed by his charges during the off-season.
“If their attitude and commitment is a sign of things to come then I think we are in for a good season,” Millward told sponsors and supporters gathered at the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus.
Former Canberra Raiders playmaker Sam Williams, exciting young centre-pairing Charly Runciman and Nathan Green, and former Wests Tigers prop Matt Groat, who will line up against his former club for the first time, were among the players present.
“They’ll all get their chance at some stage throughout the season so it’s about getting them mentally and physically ready.”
After a successful career to date that has yielded English Super League titles, Challenge Cup trophies and a World Club Challenge, Millward goes into tomorrow’s first round having not seen a NSW Cup game prior to his appointment late last year.
But Millward says coaching a squad mixed with part-timers and contracted NRL players has been a refreshing experience.
“It reminds me of why we are all involved in this game in the first place. The part-time players have the drive and passion to succeed and can’t wait to get to training after a day at work,” Millward said.
“It’s my job to bring the best out in the whole squad, whether that is a player moving up the ranks from the local competition or a player coming back from the Dragons full-time squad.”
“This competition is a stepping stone to the NRL so I need to make sure they are ready for that challenge if the opportunity presents itself.”
Having played all three levels of the game last year NYC (Under 20’s), NSW Cup and NRL, Runciman, who is also studying engineering at the University of Wollongong, is a prime example of the pathway system at work at the club.
“The Under 20’s is probably faster, whereas playing in the NSW Cup is a lot tougher, having played both is good preparation for the step up in pace and the physical nature of the NRL,” Runciman said.
The Cutters will be led tomorrow by Ryan Carr, who will also celebrate his 26th birthday on debut. Originally from the Sutherland Shire, Carr has also played for the Sharks, Cowboys, Tigers, Redcliffe (Brisbane) and Souths.
Also in attendance at the season launch was Illawarra Coal President Troy McDonald, St George Illawarra Dragons CEO Peter Doust and Illawarra Coal Cutters Chairman Sean O’Connor.
O’Connor applauded the ongoing support of Illawarra Coal, Illawarra Credit Union, KJ Scaffolding and LX Electrical.
“We’ve been blessed with great sponsors and with their ongoing support we are looking to build on the success of our first two years in the competition.”