Questions & Answers – 2016

Questions & Answers – 2016

Thanks for everyone’s patience.

From today a new RAMS initiative: we aim to answer questions and to be proactive with rugby matters likely to be raised by fans.

Each week we will post Q&A on the RAMS Blog.

This blog will be shared out on Facebook and Twitter.

Please send any questions to

Questions might be ‘on field’, ‘off field’, general rugby, Western Sydney, ARU, NSWRU, NRC….we don’t mind…..our team provide responses as best we can.

  • We have no agenda to be a live rugby forum.
  • We will not indulge social media trolls.
  • RAMS is not the ARU, NSWRU or a Shute Shield Club.

We are a Franchise simply passionate about:

  1. Providing an elite pathway for local Elite talent.
  2. Kids in Western Sydney being able to learn rugby values, develop and play.
  3. Being part of a new era of Western Sydney rugby growth.

Our Q&A initiative is designed to support the development of the above as it pertains to local stakeholders.

Fan kick start Q&A below in no particular order.

How many days to the first RAMS game?

The first PCS Rams game is on the 28th August away to the Sydney Rays at North Sydney Oval. Kick off 1pm.

How many games in the NRC?

It’s a national tournament model: 7 games, semi finals, grand final.

Yes we think the tournament should be longer! No we don’t think it should encroach on Shute Shield time.

Who is part of the RAMS set up this year?

We will provide a detailed Q&A on key team members in weeks to come (see below as a starter).

2016 appointed Coaches:

  • John Muggleton – long serving Wallaby assistant coach, appointed RAMS Head of Rugby.
  • Jeremy Paul – former Wallaby and Brumby and current Penrith Coach, appointed as Assistant Coach.
  • Joel Wilson – former North Sydney Bear, Brumby and Northern Suburbs coach who is currently coaching at Newington, appointed as Assistant Coach.

Who manages the RAMS NRC?

Maherau (Milo) Arona has been with us since 2014 and this year takes on our key NRC Tournament staff role.

An ex player in Otago, Parramatta Two Blues and tireless in church and community. Milo lives in the Penrith area and is passionate about developing Western Sydney rugby.  

Great to have more female executives coming into elite rugby!

What Players have you signed

In truth we are in the midst of recruiting our top 33 Players.

The following Waratahs will be RAMS though:

    • Hugh Roach
    • Senio Toleafoa

Roachy is inspirational and will be one of our leaders.

Senio is as an emerging Waratah and us the opportunity to show at NRC level that he’s Super Rugby ready…..just like RAMS favourite son (‘kick it to’) Jed Holloway.

Ok, this is huge for Western Sydney:

Big Will Skelton is COMING HOME and will be a RAM in 2016!!!!!!!

More on Will Skelton soon.

Also, expect another big TAHS announcement in the next few weeks.

And once Super Rugby has ended fans can reasonably expect to hear more, direct, from our Super Rugby signed players.

Send in your questions!

Ben Robinson (retired) will of course be invited to all RAMS training, events and games. What an outstanding career and ambassador for rugby.

Rob Horne and Tatafu Polota Nau will have a RAMS jersey ironed in the sheds waiting:) Both great RAMS. Both expected to be in the Wallabies ongoing.

Kurtley Beale is also welcome (for life) and we wish him well in the UK.

Cliffy Palu- come home!

(No we haven’t signed Cliffy. We live in hope.)

Naturally we will place our faith in a lot emerging talent during the 2016 Tournament. Our Coaches rate players like:

    • Dave Lolohea
    • Tyrone Viiga
    • Dewet Roos
    • Rohan Safaloi
    • Waldo Wessels
    • Mitch Walton
    • Matt Gibbon
    • Jarome McKenzie

As you would expect the Eagles (definitely) and Ray’s (possibly) will try to sign Western Sydney local players. So we won’t be sharing everyone we rate today!

Expect a few older players in our squad in 2016 also. Part of the NRC is about younger players learning…..and RAMS Coaches would like a

Fans should also expect a few surprises in 2016 and yes, for instance, we’ve signed (lightning fast) Kevin Locke, ex Auckland Warriors.

As the NRC first games gets closer we will share:

  • Who we signed
  • Who we missed
  • Who is injured
  • Who has taken bigger pay days
  • Who isn’t in our top 33 but worth watching locally for the future!

To date we’ve issued contracts to talent at Southern Districts, Parramatta, Penrith, West Harbour and Eastwood.

Where are you playing?

The PCS Rams are pleased to play 2016 games at one of the ‘spiritual homes’ of Australian Rugby, Concord Oval.

Concord provides great viewing, excellent facilities, fast track and good access for fans.

Note: Pirtek Stadium starts redevelopment pre NRC 2016 finals.

What have you learnt?

Too many lessons to name!

To some degree the RAMS consider the first NRC years as somewhat of a settling in period. RAMS Staff, Sponsors and Board are now looking forward with the next 5 years and that’s the challenge that consumes.

John Muggleton (on field) and Milo (off field) have been appointed with long term Western Sydney requirement top of mind.

As the weeks unfold we will more announcements in terms of strengthening the RAMS staff and program.

Who are your sponsors and partners?

The whole RAMS Team is thrilled to have People and Culture Strategies (PCS) as our major sponsor for the third year.  

Joydeep Hor, Managing Partner at PCS was one of the first people to recognise the potential of the NRC and particularly a Franchise based in Sydney’s West.

Outside the fact PCS believes in rugbys values and how rugby benefits families, kids and communities.

We will provide a more detailed Q&A with Joydeep in weeks to come.

Also returning are sponsors Evalesco (3rd year), ARC (3rd year) and Digital Athlete (2nd year).

Plus a few new 2016 Sponsors (hint: cars, gym, ‘watering holes’ and golf)!

As it stands we have one spot on our playing Kit and one on our warm up Kit for two sponsors. Then the ‘major sponsor’ closed sign goes up.

Please email regarding any Sponsor or Partnership enquiries.

This year Chloe Butler (Wallaroo) and John Muggleton (Head of Rugby) are implementing a Game Day experience for Sponsors.

Only Sponsors will have the opportunity to participate: starting with game day breakfast, strategy, tips, moving to player warm up, game plan, best seats in the house, post match analysis and team function!

It goes well beyond watching from the stands and is a great ‘high performance experience for’ staff or clients.

Can the RAMS win more than they lose games in 2016?

Yes. Our first priority though will be making the Rams ‘Hard to Beat”.

Win or lose people we want the opposition to know they’ve played a Western Sydney rugby team.

Things like overhauling set piece so we keep control of all ‘OUR’ Ball. Our Scrum and Line out must be functioning at a very high percentage in order to release pressure on us and transfer it to them. Secondly we must learn to use the ball wisely so that if we give the ball to the opposition at any time it is by design rather than by mistake.

To do this we aim to attack hard and fast, Kick with purpose and attack defensively.

As most tries are scored off turnovers and poorly executed kicking we believe this will minimise the opportunities for cheap points and yards for the opposition Lastly our defensive pattern must be flexible enough to pressure the opposition possession while being smart enough not to give cheap yard and opportunities through penalties.

If we do the above we can do more than just win a few games.

What do Coaches think of the rule changes in 2016?

The Rule changes will add to the ability of the attacking team to use the ball well without any unfair contests.

The restriction of the #9 from the channel at the base of the scrum will enable backs to get clean attacking ball while the penalising of the defensive team for collapsing a Maul which has been created by holding the ball carrier up is long overdue. Rugby is a game of risk and reward tactically. If you want to hold a player up yet his support arrives quickly enough to drive him forward then you should not be allowed to drop the maul and gain possession.

You may not have many Waratah contracted players, can you be competitive?

With some future Waratahs and some outside the Box signings will be “Hard to Beat”.

Fans can easily do their own

Super Rugby verse NRC analysis re available players. The rule is if you are signed to a Super Franchise they have first option on the player. For NSW we have 3 NRC teams looking to feed off one Super Franchise. It’s not easy.

In addition there are no national Super-NRC quotas from this year. So this is a bigger topic ….. more on this in weeks to come.

Rams equity stakeholder Shute Shield teams have struggled in the competition this year, is there enough talent?

Probably not to be brutally honest.

Southern Districts look hot in 2016 and the Pirates, Two Blues and Emus should promote a few players who step up in NRC 2016.

How important is the West to Rugby Union?

It’s critical.

Why? It’s not just about growth it’s the risk of losing more ground to other codes.

The more people participating in other codes, the more money they make, the more investment re fueling, the easier it is to entice folk away from rugby, with spend in marketing, social media engagement, community and player programs.

Rugby quite simply doesn’t have enough participants to lose participants.

If rugby adopts a protect what we have, ‘heads in the sand’, ‘PR campaigns without substance’, or our personal flawed favourite “we are boutique sport(!)”, it’s going to be eaten up!

We all have a responsibility to ensure the game is in a better place for the next generation.

Can Western Sydney rugby grow?

Substantial growth is possible and probable with strong leadership, planning and financial commit from ARU, NSWRU, RAMS, Clubs and local Stakeholders.

The truth is many people in Western Sydney like rugby and either a) are a little fed up with its leaders b) haven’t considered participating c) believe rugby has no idea about their requirements and preferences d) like it but it’s not viewed as part of the community e) only watch Wallaby games but can’t even remember player names f) love it but their kids are looked after better in other codes g) assortment of other things.

There is a huge opportunity for rugby and we don’t even have to compete head on with other major codes.

What should NSWRU look at regarding Western Sydney?

The Blue Mountains, Liverpool, Blacktown, Rouse Hill and the Hills region need to be considered in detail as Western Sydney demographics have changed.

It’s our view that rugby territories are outdated and unproductive.

Historical strongholds like Granville, Concord and Penrith need more support to advance.

What’s happening with the RAMS and Eastwood?

Eastwood is not a RAMS equity stakeholder.

The RAMS acknowledge the Eastwood Board’s decision not to take up our formal offer to join in 2014, and an invitation to discuss joining in 2015 and 2016.

But hey, is there many things better than a sunny afternoon at TJMillner watching the footy? Our hope is Eastwood rugby grows and stays at TJMillner forever.

With Maquarie Uni the RAYS major sponsor it probably makes more sense for Eastwood (down the road) to join the RAYS -should they ever chose to formally embrace NRC.

Long term Western Sydney may also benefit from Shute Shield Community Clubs in places like the Hills, Rouse Hill, Liverpool or Camden regions.

So it’s not critical Eastwood are aligned with the RAMS and we have a huge respect for the Woodies.

Note: RAMS Coaches will select players from our equity stakeholder club’s first: Penrith, Parramatta, Southern Districts and West Harbour.

It should be noted that we’ve already signed Eastwood players for the 2016 Tournament. More on this in weeks to come!

What’s the Southern Districts and RAMS status?

If we could technically move Forshaw into Western Sydney we’d be delighted!

Great Club. Great culture.

From the start in 2014 it’s been a positive relationship. Nev Shooter (ex President) sat on the RAMS Board for two years and was outstanding.

With NRC NSW Franchise 2016 changes –  Sydney RAYS, County EAGLES, Western Sydney RAMS- it promoted the possibility of Southern Districts making a change.

I mean does it make sense the Sydney RAYS have only 4 teams north of the Harbour Bridge?

As it stands today we are delighted that Southern Districts chose to remain formally aligned to the RAMS!

The recent Test series vs England showed Northern Hemisphere rugby is closing the gap, could we see more exports playing here in Australia?

John Muggleton: “when coaching at Gloucester in the UK all our young backs expressed to me a desire to play Super Rugby. Conflicting programmes may prevent that from happening often though”.

You have assembled a good coaching staff, what is John Muggletons elite rugby vision of the West?

John MuggletonNSWRU and the RAMS need set-up elite rugby in the West. I believe I can contribute meaningfully and as a local boy, I’m very passionate about Western Sydney.

Step 1 is to make the local Clubs strong by halting the drain of players east and north. Enough already.

Step 2 is to get back the players we have lost by playing attractive rugby in our districts and teams which will make us more competitive.

Step 3 is to attract players to our clubs due to their professionalism, spirit, camaraderie  and competitiveness.

Step 4 is the elite rugby infrastructure we desperately need locally and better alignment between Super, NRC, Clubs and Schools for both men and women, boys and girls, to cultivate local talent.

That’s what I’ll be focusing on”.

Does John Muggleton believe the Rams are a genuine pathway for our youth?

No question, yes.

The ability for a young player who has aspirations of Super Rugby or the Wallabies to prove himself by going head to head with super rugby players is priceless.

As a coach it takes some of the guesswork out of recruitment as you can immediately see how they compare on the same pitch.

Will we see in the future an aged NRC competition?

We think so.

Perhaps a RAMS Western Sydney team Under 20s in the National Champs in 2017?

Perhaps a national Men’s and Women’s 7s tournament aligned with the NRC in 2017?

The RAMS actually spent a bunch of money on a Women’s Community Sevens Tournament in 2014, and a Women’s 7s RAMS team in 2015.

The opportunity is clear for the ARU, State  Rugby and NRC Franchises to support new initiatives that in turn make elite pathway, fan and commercial sense- make it happen, make it tribal we say!

What’s the name change?

Again with the ARU altering the number of teams from 4 (Eagles and Stars merge) teams to 3 (RAYS, EAGLES, RAMS), it ended up a fairly natural progression.

Western Sydney is 46% of Sydney. In 20+ years it’s looking like 60%+. Our future home ground, training facilities and corporate support will come from the West.

It’s also clear the RAMS and NRC is here to stay, so we want to establish the RAMS for generations to come. All NRC Franchises were offered a 5 year licence in line with ARU broader commitments.

So it was appropriate to change the name in line with this next phase.

Can I come and watch the team train?

Nice. We will advertise specific times and locations where we will have open training sessions.

What’s the relationship between NSWRU and the RAMS?

Traditionally NSWRU has not been NRC focussed – although Greg Harris (ex NSWRU CEO) sought to effect changes that could help NRC.

As it stands, Andrew Hore (NSWRU CEO) is still getting his ‘feet under the desk’.

Our initial take is an intelligent guy who gets the importance of rugby from the ‘bottom-up’.

More specifically someone who has worked hard for success and deserves the NSWRU CEO opportunity.

John Muggleton knows Andrew from Wales. Andrew also reached out to the RAMS Board swiftly and relationships have been established.

Our expectation is by the end of 2016 greater ‘NSW operational’ alignment will exist between kids, subbies, community (Shute), elite pathway (NRC) and elite (Super). In our opinion this has been a monumental struggle since NRC inception.

How did the RAMS actually begin?

Neither NSWRU, nor local Clubs were in a position to put a RAMS team on the park in 2014.

So a few local guys stepped up to ensure there was a team for local kids.

Frankly we were tired of the Kurtley Beale, Israel Falau, Dave Dennis, Cliffy Palu (the list goes on a mile) not being able to stay and play local Shute Shield. (Kudos to Tatafu Polota Nau at his Parramatta Two Blues commitment).

Long term owners are happy to remain, exit, divest, support NSWRU greater involvement or grow our capabilities with additional shareholders- whatever works really for rugby growth.

Our stated interests are above.

What’s is the RAMS Board focus in 2016?

  • Ultimate goal of ‘kids play for free’
  • Competitive Team on the paddock
  • Greater NSWRU partnership

John BraidQuestions & Answers – 2016