Current Randwick club coach Morgan Turinui (centre) and head coach Stephen Hoiles (right) celebrate with Randwick after winning the 2004 Tooheys New Cup. They’d earlier won the Shute Shield based on competition points.Credit: Getty
But on top of the club’s long wait, a first premiership as a head coach would be extra special for Hoiles after a turbulent start to his career in the bright lights of Hollywood last year.
After a stint as an assistant coach with the Australian sevens team, Hoiles was hired as defence coach of the new LA Giltinis franchise in Major League Rugby, which boasted Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper. After winning the competition in their first season in 2021, coach Darren Coleman returned to coach the Waratahs and Hoiles stepped up to the top job.
But on the eve of the finals last year the table-topping Giltinis were disqualified from the competition, victims of a messy dispute between with the MLR and Australian owner and F45 founder Adam Gilchrist. Amid great uncertainty for players and families, the club would later shut down.
“That last year, you can’t learn what you went through in ten years,” Hoiles said.
“Times like that, you just have to stand up and be a front-door person. It was difficult times. But I definitely learned a lot in that, and as silly as it sounds, I loved the fact that I got to do that.”
While in LA, Hoiles saw on Facebook that Randwick were advertising for a new head coach and he applied, won the gig and came home; geographically and emotionally.
“Everything I have got out of the game, I have got because of the club. I am well aware of that. They taught me a style of footy as a kid that I could go on with, and I still feel like I have similar beliefs,” Hoiles said.
But while he played 16 Tests as a skilful loose forward from Galloping Greens central casting, Randwick types say there is a tough edge to Hoiles that doesn’t get recognised. He focussed hard on improving the club’s defence, and cut five points from their average points conceded this year.
Jeff Sayle with Michael Cheika in 1989.Credit: Steve Christo
“He has brought a level of hardness back to the club,” Randwick captain Ben Houston said. “The Randwick running rugby has always been there, that’s the DNA. But everyone forgets, premierships aren’t just won on attack.”
Under rising young coach Zak Beer, Norths will be also looking to go one better from a strong 2022 season, where they finished as minor premiers but also fell to Gordon one game shy of the decider. Norths have only lost once in their last 13 games – and that was to Randwick.
“This year when we run out, we’re going to have 1000 first-grade caps in the 23, and we’ve got five players who’ve played in the Shute Shield grand final before (in 2017),” Beer said.
“That’s the sort of experience that you can lean on to navigate these sort of games.”
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