After five months of pre-season training, it all begins this Saturday afternoon for Penrith Emus coach Jeremy Paul and his new-look side.
Since joining the Shute Shield battlers as head coach last October, Paul has worked tirelessly for months changing just about every single aspect of the club to ensure they are no longer the joke of the league.
The rugby international will finally get to see first hand what months of hard work and preparation looks like when the Penrith Emus face Gordon in the opening round of the Shute Shield competition.
Speaking with the Weekender, the two-time Super Rugby champion couldn’t contain his excitement heading into Round 1.
“I’m over the moon, I’m absolutely pumped because we are finally here,” Paul said.
“We’ve come a long way since October and for us it’s about changing our work ethic, our attitude and being competitive.”
Following a season from hell last year where the Emus won zero games under former coach Sateki Tu’ipulotu, Paul has worked hard focusing to change the negative perception the club has had for a very long time.
“All I can ask is for them to do their best,” Paul said.
“I know where we are at and where we’ve come from – we’ve improved dramatically.
“But we won’t know whether we’re at a Shute Shield standard until this weekend.”
To get them ready for the long season ahead, the Emus played two pre-season trials in February – one against a second-rate ACT Brumbies side and the other against Blue Mountains.
Paul said he was impressed with the improvement throughout both trials.
“The Brumbies was an excellent trial for us… we let in nine tries but four of those were in the first quarter,” he said.
“All I wanted was for us to be in the contest defensively, we always knew we’d struggle against them in attack.
“A week later we took on Blue Mountains in another trial and we scored 11 tries to one.”
After a successful playing career, Paul knows miracles don’t happen overnight. He will, however, get a good indication on how far his side have come when they take on Gordon at 5.15pm this Saturday at Mingara Regional Athletics Centre.
“Without putting expectations on ourselves, I believe if we work our hardest and to our best, we’re in for a good shot,” he said.
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.