High-flying Waratahs spread skills in Illawarra

Kurtley Beale with (from left) Eli and Harry Schultz from Kiama, Bradley Nieborak and Kane Sharman. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Kurtley Beale with (from left) Eli and Harry Schultz from Kiama, Bradley Nieborak and Kane Sharman. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

RUGBY UNION

Rookie winger Alofa Alofa believes team "brotherhood" will be the NSW Waratahs' greatest weapon in their pursuit of a maiden Super Rugby title.

The Waratahs are alone at the top of the standings after last week's 39-8 thumping of the Brumbies, three points clear of the Sharks with two rounds remaining.

They host the fourth-placed Highlanders on Sunday then wrap up the regular season with an away clash with the Queensland Reds.

The 23-year-old is confident 2014 will finally be the Year of the Tah.

"This is my first season and I don't know what it's been like before, but I just feel a lot of unity ... that there's a brotherhood," he said.

"It's awesome to know that our marquee players, guys like Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau, they don't ride on how big they are.

"They always come and chat to guys like myself, who've never experienced the things they have. They try to help us and nurture us and just try to grow us as players.

"It helps us new guys coming in to make it more of a family."

The bonus-point win over the Brumbies was soured by an injury suffered by captain Dave Dennis. Dennis has been replaced by former Brumbies captain Stephen Hoiles.

''We were all saddened by the fact Dave's not there anymore, but it's given us more of a drive to play harder, because he's a huge part of our team,'' Alofa said.

''I'm very confident about the team that we have. [Michael] Hooper's taking over the captaincy and I can't wait to see what he can do for us and lead us from the front.''

Alofa and Beale were among Waratahs players in Wollongong on Wednesday for a junior coaching clinic.

"We don't come here often but it's always good to come down to Wollongong and see there's good support here," the former Sydney Roosters winger said.

"I always like to give back. Days like today keep you grounded and make you remember not to take it for granted, because we're lucky to do what we do."

Sean Barrett, the Australian Rugby Union's development manager for the Illawarra, said the Waratahs always leave a lasting impression on the region's young rugby players.

"The biggest thing is that the players really enjoy the interaction with the kids," Barrett said.

More than 100 children aged 6-12 were put through their paces at Wednesday's free clinic, which featured games, drills and an autograph session.

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