Stephen Hoiles to soar with Eagles after Waratahs triumph

Super rugby title winner Stephen Hoiles at NSW Country training at Vikings Oval in Wollongong on Thursday. Picture: GREG TOTMAN
Super rugby title winner Stephen Hoiles at NSW Country training at Vikings Oval in Wollongong on Thursday. Picture: GREG TOTMAN


One day he's in the middle of a ticker-tape parade, savouring the joy of a long-awaited Super Rugby title with his NSW Waratahs teammates.

A week later, former Wallabies back-rower Stephen Hoiles was sweating it out at an empty ground in Wollongong with the rest of the NSW Country Eagles, preparing for this month's launch of the new National Rugby Championship (NRC).

The Eagles are in Wollongong for a three-day camp, trying to make an impact in a market where St George Illawarra dominates the landscape and football captured the imagination by hosting the A-League All Stars and an FFA Cup game on Wednesday.

The 32-year-old is on a short list for the Eagles' captaincy and expects some of his younger teammates to turn to him for the odd tip at various stages of the NRC's inaugural season.

But Hoiles said the senior players have fed off the positive energy of their less experienced comrades.

"The feeling we went through [with the Waratahs] the last couple of weeks, that was as good as you can experience in rugby, and coming down from that high is a little bit difficult, but the good thing is that the young guys are helping the older guys because they're so enthusiastic," he said after Thursday's training session at Vikings Field.

"You see what it means to them to get to this level. The young guys' enthusiasm always rubs off on us old fellas. I'll be draining as much energy from those guys as they'll be trying to drain from our experience."

Nine teams from all corners of Australia will contest the first NRC over an 11-week season. NSW Country's first game is against Greater Sydney Rams on August 23 at Coogee Oval.

"I've never been in a team that's come from such a wide variety of backgrounds and clubs," Hoiles said.

"They've got a good attitude and there's guys here at different stages of their careers. Some are at the start and some are at the end, like myself, but [the NRC is] a good idea.

"It's interesting because it's only a short comp. You just hope there's stability there, and that whoever's making these decisions has a long-term plan, because the last thing Australian rugby needs is for this to be a one or two-year comp. It needs to be a competition that produces Wallabies."

Lining up for the Eagles are Illawarra players Paul Tuala (University) and Eli Sinoti (Avondale).

"We're the only Wollongong boys, so it's kind of nice to be in the picture with so many good players," Tuala said.

"It's been good to finally meet all the other players and rub shoulders, especially with the Super Rugby players. It's good to get into camp and start going through the stuff we need to go through.

"It's definitely a step up. There's so much more you have to learn, and you're also learning stuff off the other players as well, which really helps."


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