Newcastle Rugby: Lake Macquarie coach concedes strong finish crucial for Roos’ survival

LAKE Macquarie coach Gareth Palamo knows what it takes to build a successful rugby club.

HARD YARDS: Lake Macquarie lock Junior Osasa tries to push past Merewether halfback Eli McCulloch at Townson Oval. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HARD YARDS: Lake Macquarie lock Junior Osasa tries to push past Merewether halfback Eli McCulloch at Townson Oval. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Palamo, a big-hitting back-rower in his prime, played 146 first-grade games for perennial powerhouse Eastwood from 2005 to 2013 and featured in two Shute Shield grand finals.

And when, after a couple of years away from the game, Palamo, 39, joined the Roos midway through last season, he was confident the ingredients for success were there.

Indeed, in his four games off the bench, the Roos beat Nelson Bay (46-40), University (29-27) and The Waratahs (54-24) and went down 28-19 to Southern Beaches. They went on to finish the season in seventh.

Installed as coach at the end of last season, Palamo remained optimistic.

Unfortunately for Palamo, who regards himself as a 20-minute player, the Roos lost six first-graders, led by captain Ken Viliamo (Sydney), Winston Wilson (Gordon), KG Lam (Parramatta) amd Marvin Tauhinu (Griffith), and weren’t able to replace them.

Still the 121-12 hammering to Nelson Bay in round two came as a shock.

However, things have spiralled to the point of embarrassment, conceding more than 100 points in the past three games.

“We are obviously going through a tough period as a club and as a team,” Palamo said. “The previous game we had a few injuries and guys who had other commitments. As a club, we don’t have the depth and when you lose a few guys it changes what the team looks like on the weekend. I commend the guys who are still doing it, they are still turning up and still have a smile on their face. It’s one of those things we need to try and manage, but the situation that we are in now cannot continue.”

The Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union board this week guaranteed the Roos’ place in the competition until the end of the season, on the proviso there are no safety issues.

“I have had conversations with the club about what we can do,” Palamo said. “We don’t want the current situation to keep occurring. If we want to survive, what happens this year impacts on next year. If we can’t finish off strong it will be very hard to entice people to come and play for the club next season, and in coming years. We are trying to recruit guys for this season. That has been a tough process as well. To try and pitch it to someone is not easy.”

There is a general bye this weekend. The Roos meet Maitland at Marcellin Park next Saturday, are home to Nelson Bay and then enter a slightly easier part of the draw.

“The break has come at a good time,” Palamo said. “The next part of the draw is an opportunity for us to get that confidence back. Once you get a couple of wins, the body language changes and you start getting more confident and motivated. That is the intent.”