Local rugby fans can expect a different looking Tumut Bulls in 2020 with new first grade coach Jonathan Hulks aiming to keep things simple and focus on the fundamentals of rugby.
The Bulls, who started 2019 in empathic fashion with four wins from five games, were cruelled by injury and inexperience as the season progressed, eventually missing the finals.
“The one thing that will be different this year is that everyone is going back to basics, I want players learning correct technique, good body height and I just want to simplify our game plan,” Hulks said.
The new coach said that having a versatile team that could dominate at the breakdown would be one of his side’s strengths in 2020, with Hulks expecting all players to carry their weight.
“One of my focuses this year is to make sure all backs would be training with the forwards to learn what a forward does,” Hulks said.
”If we are attacking and get isolated out wide, it is important our backs know how to attack, or defend at a ruck and maul.”
The 35-year-old will be able to offer years of experience too, boasting a rich rugby background after having played and coached with the Campbelltown Harlequins.
“I’m third generation Harlequin, I played my entire junior career from the age of 10 all the way through to colts and seniors for the Campbelltown Harlequins.
“I racked up 130 odd games and my pop (Eddie Hughes) started the Harlequins and my uncle played over 400 games for the club.
Hulks complemented the Tumut Bulls culture though, likening the country club to the Harlequins.
“If I was still living there, I wouldn’t be at any other club but moving here and to the Bulls, it very much felt like home, a very similar foundations,” Hulks said.
The burly loose-head prop moved to Tumut in 2017 with his wife and children and has settled into the region and couldn’t envision being anywhere else.
“I’m shopfitter joiner by trade and I do building work, we moved to Grahamstown because of the price of property and the lifestyle and we have definitely settled in,” Hulks said.
Hulks explained how an extended stay at the Riverglade caravan park proved to be the catalyst for him joining the Bulls family.
“We actually got caught out and had to stay at Riverglade caravan park for eight weeks before moving into our house and after I spoke to Matt and Gemma Pearce and told them I wanted to play rugby, they pointed me in the direction of Chappy (Mat Chapman) and it all started from there,” Hulks said.
“I remember the first time I played too, It was nice to be thrown straight in and given a go and be accepted straight of the bat. There was no awkwardness and I was just straight into it.
“On that first day, I played thirds and scored a try, played in seconds and scored a try and sat on the bench in firsts.”
The 35-year-old said that he didn’t actually have eyes on the first grade job this year but everything seemed to just fall into place for him.
“Knowing that Gormo (Brad Gorman) and Grivo (Morgan Grivas) wanted to step back, I knew there was going to be the opportunity there but I don’t think I originally approached Carmo (Jon Carmody) about first grade, probably more second grade,” Hulks said.
“Carmo said the job was there and I thought why not, I should give it a crack and from what we have done so far, I’m definitely enjoying it but I’m still learning stuff myself.”
When asked what legacy he would leave with the Bulls, Hulks touched on the importance of technique and building rugby players.
“It was always drummed into me from the coaches I had as a junior that correct body height is the key,” Hulks said.
“You could have a 130kg bloke but experience, skill and technique will always win in a ruck and maul and that starts with correct body height.”
The Bulls coach is hoping that with easing Covid-19 social gathering laws, the Bulls could commence training in the coming weeks but asked players to keep working on their own training at home.
“Once we are allowed to have up to 10 people training, we will get together for road runs and sessions at Jarrah Oval,” Hulks said.
“Its important people are staying fit and doing their own thing at home. We need to be ready when this competition starts.”