August  21 - 27, 2022: Issue 551


Greg Lee

In 2020 Newport Breakers Rugby Club played in Division Three and were Club Champions, the Keith 'Doc' Harris Shield, Clark Cup Premiers, Farrant Cup Premiers, Nicholson Cup Premiers and almost scooped the pool by securing the Campbell Cup, being knocked out in the Semis for that one  - either way Newport won four of the five available cups in their Division.

In 2021, and for the for the first time since 1945, with Covid lockdowns across the range of NSW Suburban Rugby Union, the Board made the difficult decision to cancel the season and, as a result, no premierships or club championships were won, no individual awards were presented and our records will sadly reflect the season that wasn’t.

However, in 2022, the games were on and Newport Breakers Rugby Club, now playing in Division Two, set their sights on not only being a community hub for everyone young and old and in between, they also aimed to do better in their focus on their community engagement and in their sport.

Their first home game, complete with The Breakettes playing, was in May 2022. Strong playing and consistent results have marked their Season in all grades.

At their final home game for this Season, at Porters' Reserve Newport, Saturday August 20, 2022, with Semis commencing next week, Newport results were:

Barraclough Cup: 1st Grade
Newport 32 v 28 Hawkesbury Valley

Stockdale Cup: 2nd Grade
Newport 47 v 17 Hawkesbury Valley

Robertson Cup (Colts)
Newport 52 v 5 Hawkesbury Valley

Blunt Cup: 3rd Grade
Newport 26 v 0 Hawkesbury Valley

Richardson Cup: 4th Grade
Newport 0 v 28 UNSW Forfeit to UNSW

Prior to the semis Newport places in the following:

Barraclough Cup: currently sits at 1st
Stockdale Cup: currently 3rd overall
Robertson Cup (Colts): currently 2nd overall
Blunt Cup: currently 1st overall
Richardson Cup: currently 3rd overall

Newport is also currently sitting at 1st place in the Cowboy Cup and Division 2 Club Championship.

At the beginning of their 2022 Season Newport announced that Greg Lee had been appointed 1st Grade Coach for Season 2022. Greg came to the Breakers with a rich rugby pedigree:

  • * 2021 1st Grade Shute Shield Western Sydney Two Blues
  • * 2016-2020 Warringah Rugby Club incl. 2018 Premiership
  • * Ex- Waverley Suburban Rugby Player, Coach and Committee level including Barraclough and Kentwell Cup

In late June Pittwater Online spoke with Jake Osborne about how the season was shaping, Jake explained:

There’s been a couple of things that are starting to click. Firstly we’ve got a new Coaching Director, Greg Lee, he’s come in and implemented some new stuff that he’s learnt from bigger and stronger Rugby clubs like Warringah and Parramatta. So we’re learning and doing well under his coaching style. 

Secondly we’ve had a lot of young blokes over the last few years who are growing in strength. We had a Colts team that won three back-to-back Premierships and now they’ve come in to Grade football. The first few weeks of this Season they were adapting towards playing against bigger and much more experienced guys and now they are really starting to find their feet. 

Probably one of the most important things we’ve done as well is to be flexible and clear about optimising what we’re doing. At the beginning of the year each player is very much in their Grade – so you’re either a First, Second, Third, Fourth or Colts player. As the year goes on people move between Grades ands you get this solidification of the playing group and everyone works as one giant playing team. That’s usually where we come into our own a little bit and strengthen up as one club as opposed to five teams. 

I think we’re in an ok spot. We’ve got a big weekend this week against University of NSW. They’re probably our biggest threat for the Club Championship, just behind Lindfield, who are also very strong. We really need to be consistent – so for us to win the Club Championships and return back to Division 1, which we haven’t been in since 1999 or 2000, there’s a lot of consistency that needs to happen.

This week Greg shares a few insights on his coaching as this Issues' Profile - a first ever Profile on one of our local coaches.

When did you first start playing Rugby?

I was actually brought up on the Eastern Beaches of Sydney and played as a Junior for Clovelly. I was one of these people who played both Rugby League and Rugby Union up until the beginning of High School. So I played at Clovelly, played at school, played Grade at Randwick. Rugby League I only played as a junior but Rigby Union I played for around 30 years. I started as a 5-year-old and finished playing in my mid 30’s.

How did the shift to Coaching begin?

I coached a little bit when I was at school, coaching Juniors, then even when I was playing for a rival club I started coaching at the local club, so went back to Clovelly and coached juniors there for a few years. I then coached Colts  - we reinvigorated a Colts Program at Waverley, another suburban club, then towards the end of my playing days I was helping a mate out and started with Women’s Rugby. That would have been around 1999. I started a Women’s team at Waverley and coached there for a few years. I then coached at a representative level, and coached Sydney Women’s Rugby in that capacity. Interestingly back then what happened was New South Wales was too strong for the rest of the country so when they had their National titles they stopped us form having a NSW side so we put in a Sydney and a Sydney A side and we won, myself and other coaches and the players, back to back tiles with that. 

Did you learn any other skills working with these other coaches?

I took the best from coaches I enjoyed being coached by, which were few and far between – that’s probably what shaped my coaching the most in the sense that I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t the coach that I didn’t like. 

What sport did you do during Summer?

I turned my hand very typically to cricket during Summer, and then Rugby during Winter – very stereotypical. 

How many hours are you putting into training at Newport each week?

A heck of a lot less than what I’ve been used to doing previously. We still train twice a week and train for around 90 minutes a session.

What does a training session comprise – theory, exercises, trying out plays or?

Your whole Season you periodise. So when you start off you work to a strengthening and conditioning plan, and some tactical periodisation; you’ve got some things you want to achieve. Unfortunately this year we’ve had times when we’ve been marred by the wet weather which meant we missed a large gap and didn’t get an opportunity to Trial. As a result I was going into the Season a little bit blind, based on what I’d hoped to get done.

When I was asked if I’d be interested in coaching at Newport Breakers I was actually thinking about taking a year off. Jake Osborne, the President, did his due diligence and someone told him I might have been available. He had played with a number of the boys I’d coached down at Warringah Ruby, the Rats, some of whom I’d won a Premiership with, and they said ‘yeah, he’s not a bad bloke’ (laughs) apparently.

I said ‘give me two weeks’ and went and watched every game on Clutch TV, watched First Grade, Second Grade and Colts because my attitude is ‘if I don’t think I can help the boys I wont take up the role’. You have to do your research, your due diligence must be part of your approach. Having watched a lot of that I thought I could help them in a certain way – we had an S&C Coach, a Strengthening and Conditioning Coach, who id worked with at the Rats, and he came on board for the pre-Season; we worked out the bets way to get the boys fit.  You do a lot of ground work in pre-Season. When you come into Season you top some of those sessions up – so you may do some physical sessions where it’s a lot of aerobic fitness. We mix that up by going down to various gyms – we use gyms around the local area to do Crossfit Training and various methods alike that to make sure we’re getting the boys functional training aligned to their positional requirements. 

When did you go into Warringah?

Around 2016 – I was coaching at Gordon prior to that. 

How did you get them to a Premiership in 2018, just 2 years after starting there?

I started off doing Colts and a lot of the boys were moving up to Grade and as I’d built a pretty good relationship with a lot of those members and so decided to go up myself. I’m not a person who has aspirations to coach the Wallabies but I will go as high as I can go and realised I was at a new club and so was willing to go wherever they put me. At that time Darren Coleman, who is now Coach of the Waratahs, said ‘look I wouldn’t mind you looking after our Henderson Cup side’, which is their 4th Grade side, and I was happy to do that. We had some success, and obviously won a Premiership. A lot of the boys stuck around and so I did it for another year to see if we could go back-to-back – unfortunately we were one game off securing a Grand Final berth in our second year, getting knocked out in the semi-finals. The year after that I went up and was coaching 2nd Grade for Warringah.

How many players have you been training at Newport?

Obviously we’ve got our 4 grades there and Colts, our senior grades and Colts, and whilst in pre-Season I probably do more overall coaching, but as it stands during Season I mainly look after 1st and 2nd Grade.

You keep your eye on what’s happening in the other grades. Sometimes we still do an overall session on a Tuesday, but generally speaking what happens when you’re in Season, and because every team has slightly different needs, has different skill levels, different efficiencies, as well as different availability of players which means the sessions are going to be a little bit different, we try and tailor the training to the team. So unless I’m seeing something that is problematic throughout the whole club, and in then you would get everyone in session and work together right across the board, each team has its own focus areas. The lower grade coaches will say ‘we’re seeing this happening, so we’re going to work on that’, whereas the 1st and 2nd grades may need to work on something that’s a little bit different.

What impact does playing away games have on player conditions – especially when you’re travelling several hours to get there?

One of the big problems, based on our club membership having a lot of tradesmen, is that a lot of them do work on Saturdays and this makes for a situation of timing. You may have someone that will finish and be able to get across to Porters’ Reserve in time but it’s a very different ask when you say ‘can you be at Beecroft or up at the Hawkesbury Valley or down at Daceyville or out at Blacktown by 10 o’clock please?’.

That ebbs and flows a little bit, and you have people who will sacrifice the work to be there, but it is part of what the club is comprised of. During the last two Covid effected Seasons, and the roll on that has had on every other area, you have so many tradesmen who have so much work on they can’t actually get away. 

I know during pre-Season when we played our 7’s Tournament we had a couple of guys doing their utmost to get there to play but across the season you do have players who literally cannot get away. That obviously impacts on our Season. 

Depending on the ages within your club too that can have an impact – we have a lot of young guys and they have to take work when they can get it, and that too can impact on game days. 

What we’ve been doing is building in capacity – we had a young guy who came off the bench to make his 1st Grade debut and then you get a message from him saying he’s not available for the next two weeks due to work. It’s the nature of the beast and you just have to work with it.

Just on playing away games and grounds – you have some experience of other grounds – what have been your personal favourites over the years to play on or great memories to be a part of and why?

The Women’s Rugby is a nice memory of course, even though the ground wasn’t a spectacular ground – it was played down at the Narrabeen Sports Academy, which is ok but not built for purpose, or specifically for this sport. 

Obviously for me personally, you can’t go past Rat Park. When you’re talking about grounds at Premiership level it has got to be one of the best grounds in Sydney because you have plenty of parking, it’s a little bit protected, you have a lovely grandstand, plus you have a grassy embankment around three sides of the field which provides not only the kids with plenty of fun but also for the supporters. Having played on it and also coached on it, it’s probably the best field as far as that’s concerned. 

If you’re taking memories-wise I’d probably say T G Millner because my last two years, where I lost two Grand Finals in a row, were out at T G Millner. I played many Finals out there at various levels. That’s just one of those places that’s been the hallowed turf which will eventually be no more.

What’s the difference between a losing side and a winning side?

In a lot of cases it’s attitude and the 1%. So the attention to detail and my attitude is it’s always about standards; setting the standards that you’re willing to accept.

Obviously I always push the boys to always strive for excellence because we’re not after perfection, we’re after excellence, and it’s all about the 1 percenters. So it’s bearing in mind, always, that everyone can improve by 1%, the marginal gain across the whole team can be quite impactful.

Will we see you do a second year at Newport?

At this stage I have no idea because, as you can tell, I’m a bit of a journeyman. I’ve been playing for 30 years but only coaching for 22 of those years, at various clubs. From my perspective it’s about giving back and giving back where I think I can make a difference. I have a different approach as a coach, and this may stem in part because I am a schoolteacher by profession, and committed to giving back in the local area. This is one of those things where you can apply a lot of your methodologies and pedagogies into coaching because it’s about the dissemination of information. 

For me it’s two things; I think it’s important to give back and I think that sport is a microcosm of society. In those terms it’s not just about making better sportspeople, it’s about making better men and better women.

*T G Millner Field is in the North West Sydney suburb of Marsfield, New South Wales, Australia, and is currently the home ground of Eastwood Rugby Club, a rugby union Club that competes in the Shute Shield competition. In 1954, Vimiera Recreation Grounds, a company associated with Eastwood Rugby, purchased 7 acres of land on Vimiera Rd about a mile and a half north-east of Eastwood railway station for the construction of a sporting complex for Eastwood Rugby. At the time sporting clubs only had access to fields owned and maintained by suburban councils and this purchase was made possible by a loan from Colonel Tom Millner MC VD. The clubhouse and oval were built by volunteers and after 1963 and the development of dressing rooms, all home games were played at Marsfield. Additional land was bought in 1967 increasing the site to more than 16 acres (65,000 m2).

The complex originally had 3 full sized playing fields which have been floodlit since 1969 and which were available for games and training. The grandstand was also constructed in 1969.

In 2000 Vimiera Recreation Grounds, the owners of T G Millner, signed a 99-year lease with North Ryde RSL Community Club which transferred control over the entire complex to the RSL. Following this transfer a number of changes occurred which included the RSL prohibiting rugby being played on the third field

In 2017, VRG advised that the entire complex had been sold to North Ryde RSL. 

On August 25, 2020 Ryde Council decided not to proceed with heritage listing T.G. Millner Field. 

In June 2022, North Ryde RSL the owners of TG Millner announced that an application had been lodged with Ryde Council to "renew the TG Millner Field site by creating 132 low-rise, diverse homes and a new public park for the local community."

Avalon Bulldogs - Newport Breakers Hybrdi game at Rat Park in 2016.