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Charting a New Course: Ben Batger's Plans for Easts Rugby

We recently had the privilege of sitting down with Ben Batger, the newly appointed head coach of Easts Rugby Club, to discuss his outlook and preparations for the upcoming season. 

With a rich history behind the club and a palpable hunger for success, Batger shared his insights on the squad's potential and his vision for fostering a winning culture within the team. 

As the season approaches, Batger's blend of respect for tradition and a forward-looking game plan promises an exciting phase down at Woollahra Oval.

How does it feel to step into the role of head coach for a club with such a rich history?

It is a privilege to become part of a club with such a great history. There are so many amazing stories from generation to generation. I never actually realised how deep the club’s history is. It is an honour to be part of the club as head coach, and I am very keen to add my own slice of history into the Easts story.

You are coming into a team that has been hungry for success for quite some time. What is your initial assessment of the squad's potential?

It is no secret the first-grade side hasn’t had the results the club has wanted for the last 2 years. Coming 8th and 10th simply is not good enough for a club like ours. However, there are lots of positives. The previous coaches blooded a lot of good young players last year who will be better for the experience. We have won 2nd grade and 1st colts premierships in 2022, so there is talent there. Add a little more experience, some size, and get a bit of luck with our professional players, and I think we can turn the corner quickly.

The club has not seen a first-grade competition win since the '60s. How do you plan to break this long-standing drought?

The Shute Shield is a very unique competition, so I am hoping my experience in it over the last 20 years will help provide the right structures and processes to give us the best chance of winning. Add in an excellent coaching team (who have all tasted Shute Shield success), depth in squad, and a board and club pulling in the one direction, then you give yourself the best chance to win. But winning is bloody hard.

Can you share some insights into your coaching philosophy?

For me, I have two simple things I require from players:

  • Do your job.

  • Give 100% effort.

Then it is the coach’s job to improve every player. If every player improves, there is a good chance your team will improve.

There is a lot of excitement among the Members and supporters about your arrival. What message do you have for them as the season approaches?

First message would be thank you. The welcome I received was tremendous. Secondly, be patient. There are lots of new players and staff, so it will take a little time to get together. Thirdly, get to every game possible. We want to show all our supporters we mean business in 2024 and we want to make the supporters proud to wear the Red, White, and Blue.

Pre-season preparations are crucial. What are your key focus areas to ensure the team hits the ground running?

Clarity in messaging is a big one. I want all the players and coaches on the same page. Standards are also crucial. If we want to be a top-four side, we must train, play, and have the mindset of a top 4 team.

What are the particular areas of the game you believe the team needs to improve on to be competitive this season?

For me, there were three clear things that stood out:

  1. We turned the ball over more than any other team in the competition, so we need to respect the ball more and stop going for “high risk” play every time.

  2. We must get our lineout sorted because it is a major source of possession in Shute Shield and we were in the bottom 3 last year.

  3. Defense wins premierships. We need to be more resilient here and have everyone working together.

Team culture plays a significant role in a team's success. How do you plan to foster a winning culture within Easts Rugby?

Rugby must be the priority when it comes to training and playing. These young men have lots of distractions - work, family, Uni, etc., and add to that we have such a thriving clubhouse and social scene. 

So, getting them to narrow their focus and playing together will help foster a winning culture. Then it is getting players to drive standards. Like I said before, if you want to be on the top side, you need to live and breathe it every day, not just sometimes.

Looking ahead, what would you consider a successful season for Easts Rugby, both on and off the field?

As a first-grade side, we must play finals football; that is the bare minimum. Off the field, I just want every player to say they enjoyed their time at Easts, and they got a little bit better as a player and person.

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