Your new-look Easts Tigers have had a shake-up with first-season head coach Ben Mowen meshing fresh faces and old heads to make their mark on 2022.
Saturday’s opener against Sunnybank at David Wilson Field will be the lift-off to where Mowen, attack coach Paul Warwick and forwards coach Simon Craig want to take the club in the Hospital Cup.
Former Wallaby Mowen knows what success looks like. He will always treasure sharing in the euphoria of the six-from-six finale to 2020 but he’s also aware of separating that history from the 2022 squad.
“We’ll create our own identity as a team while embracing everything the club stands for and having respect for the legacy we are building on,” Mowen said.
“It’s exciting times ahead with new faces, the influx of good Colts, experienced players returning, Paul’s ideas on attack from his many years in Europe, what ‘Craigy’ is doing for our scrummaging and some new philosophies,” Mowen said.
“We weren’t humming by any means in the trials. We’re still in the building phase
but there were good signs on where we can grow and go. “That game management piece is the big one…making sure we play more in the right parts of the field so we can build pressure that counts.”
Workaholic flanker Tom Milosevic, part of 2020’s premiership team, has been installed as captain. Matt Smit and Zac Shepherd are in the freshly-created leadership team to provide him with support.
“It was an easy call to make Tom captain. His loyalty to the club stretches over many years. The way he trains, plays and carries himself is a great example. We are providing leadership support around him with Matt and Zac,” Mowen said.
The Tigers won the 2020 premiership in November during that delayed COVID-hit season and were back on the park in March, 2021 to win the Australian Club Championship over Gordon. More celebrations at Tiger Town.
Having a grand final so late in the year did create challenging logistics and such a
short prep for 2021 turned it into almost back-to-back seasons.
The 2021 season derailed early with seven straight losses but rarely with any loss of positive mood amongst the players.
“At no point did we feel the wheels had fallen off. We needed that first win and things then fell into place with six wins from our last eight games,” Milosevic said.
“We turned the tide against Norths (32-22). It’s always good to beat Brothers (25- 22) and there was a bit of feeling to that win over Wests (38-34). “We’ve had a lot more time together as a squad entering 2022. We’ve been more
organised with our training blocks and we’ve had the benefits of all the team bonding that three days on Straddie brings. “I’m excited to see our new combos, how the team grows and some big wins along the way.”
So how does the first team of the year look?
TOM MILOSEVIC: With more than 100 first grade games to his name, he’s counting one or two more grey hairs after turning 28 last week. He’s been a club servant as a backrow dynamo since 2014. The way he plays and goes about his preparation are a perfect example for youngsters playing follow- the-leader.
WILL KIRK: A first grade chance at 20 straight out of Colts. He has thrilling speed and the vision to make it count from halfback.
Hooker Zac Crothers, fullback Taj Annan and centre Tyrees Wilson don’t have a 21st birthday candle between them either.
ZAC SHEPHERD: The tallest figure in Saturday’s pack will be facing his former club Sunnybank. That will add spice for this important lineout figure at lock.
JEFF FAAMAUSILI: A forceful, old school No.8 who only knows one way to go…forward. Another lining up against his old club.
JAKE PAPPIN: The 20-year-old recruit has come over from Brothers. Coach Mowen has had a high regard for his skillset at flyhalf since spotting him in the Junior Wallabies squad.
BROTHERS IN ARMS
Tighthead prop LAURENCE TOMINIKO is a new recruit to join brother JP TOMINIKO, at loosehead, in the Easts front-row on Saturday.
OLD HEADS RETURN
SHANE KENNEDY, MAX BAKER and MATT SMIT are part of the core of experience and standards that the 2022 team will be built on.
Flying wingers Baker and Kennedy have the polish to make the most of the ideas
in attack that the Tigers are brewing. Smit is your rock-solid inside centre. He shared in the 2020 premiership and will
be a real leader for a youthful backline.
EASTS (v Sunnybank) Saturday, April 23
1 JP Tominiko, 2 Zac Crothers, 3 Laurence Tominiko, 4 Aidan Leeming, 5 Zac
Shepherd, 6 Tom Milosevic ©, 7 Alex Smit, 8 Jeff Faamausili, 9 Will Kirk, 10 Jake
Pappin, 11 Max Baker, 12 Matt Smit, 13 Tyrees Wilson, 14 Shane Kennedy, 15 Taj
Annan. Reserves: 16 SJ Tamala, 17 Marty Brennan, 18, Tom Fowler, 19, Ben
Stoddart, 20 Tau Tuisamoa, 21 Ben Littleton, 22 Lachlan Kirk, 23 Meli Dreu