Horwitz: Vikings shaping as the team to beat

By Pete Fairbairn, 01.09.16

The 2016 Buildcorp NRC kicked off last weekend, and to help build the following and profile of the competition, the Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) has engaged a blogger from each of the eight teams to write for the RUPA website on multiple occasions throughout the season.

Last week, we heard from both Scott Gale and Sam Talakai, and the first player we hear from ahead of Round Two is NSW Country Eagles centre David Horwitz.

22-year-old Horwitz has featured in all three years of the NRC, making just the 1 appearance in 2014 before playing 8 times last year. This year has seen him break through into the Waratahs team in Super Rugby, playing 13 times in his third season at the Club after being a young sensation and representing Australia at both Schoolboys and U20s level.

This week, he writes about his new centre combination at the Eagles with Kyle Godwin, his quest to be a part of NRC success and the challenge posed by their impending opponents, the UC Vikings.

David Horwitz: In His Own Words, Round Two:

It was really pleasing for NSW Country to start the season with a win against Brisbane City on Saturday, and I really enjoyed playing outside Kyle Godwin for the first time.

Until I was able to call him a teammate, I hadn’t been necessarily aware of just how physical Kyle is. I very quickly realised on Saturday that two hallmarks of Kyle’s game are his defence and his gain line carrying, which are great strings to have to your bow. I also find his left foot kicking quite a unique option within Australian Rugby, and as we know he has the ability to be the second ball player, so he adds a lot to NSW Country this year.

As a midfield pairing, Kyle and I are very similar in that we have both converted into the centres from playing in the 10 jersey. Therefore, the biggest challenge for us is carrying the ball in tough situations to provide go forward for the team, and also linking up well with our outside backs, but I thought we gelled together well first time around. Kyle is such a smart footy player, and he is so adaptive.

The midfield combination in Rugby is definitely very important. Our midfield combination is quite interchangeable in terms of who runs in the wide channels, and who helps the 10 more and plays in the forwards. Defensively it is probably even more important that we combine well and that it is very important to make sure we trust each other with our communications.

The archetypal centre combination of the modern era would have to be (All Blacks legends) Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith. They balanced each other out so well; they both ball-played, Nonu did a lot of the tough carries and Smith was an excellent defender and smart footballer. Nobody will ever necessarily replicate a centre pairing quite like that, but as you can see with the current pairings with successful teams like the All Blacks and Hurricanes you can still be very effective as long as you cover all the bases between you as a duo.

It’s my third year with the Eagles, and on top of that it’s also great that I’ve played a fair bit of football for either Randwick or the Waratahs (or both) with Andrew Deegan, Andrew Kellaway and Reece Robinson.

I like to think I can help take a little bit of the stress off Andrew Deegan with his decision making if he needs help to make a call and that might be quite difficult if we were a new partnership, while Andrew Kellaway and I would have played close to 100 games together since Schoolboys Rugby. I know what he’s thinking on the field and when he is going to spray me so I can prepare for that and have my retaliation ready! In saying that, we also understand that most of the non-NSW sides in the NRC have established combinations built through Super Rugby which will hold them in good stead.

I really enjoyed being (stand-in) Captain last week; I was Captain of Randwick in 2015 and I found that I got to be that much more involved in the game, thinking about more than just my own performance. It’s definitely a unique challenge, but in saying that I’ll be happy to hand it back to Paddy Ryan when he returns. He definitely has the experience, the natural leadership and the respect of the group, and he’s the right man for the job, so it will be nice to sit back and then just pipe up with my views every now and then rather than steer the ship.

It’s a massive challenge to head to Canberra this week, and after their big win over QLD Country they’re definitely shaping as the NRC team to beat this year. They have a pack that functions very well at set piece, including Wallaby locks Rory Arnold and Sam Carter, and it’s going to be a big challenge for our forwards.

In the backs Henry Speight has a point to prove after coming back from the Rugby Sevens program, and he played very well on the weekend. They’ve also got exciting young inside backs who are up and coming and have had a taste of Super Rugby; they’re a very structured side just like the Brumbies and they have threats across the whole park.

My goals this year are far more centred around our performances as a team. I haven’t enjoyed too much success with the Eagles yet, being injured in year one as we were eliminated in the Semi Finals and then not making the Finals last year.

I think we have a very good squad, some excellent coaching and backroom staff, and also great sponsors off the field. Everything is set up for us to have a very big season and I think there is no excuse why we can’t be NSW’s premier side and have a real tilt at the NRC Finals.

This competition gave me the platform last year to play against the likes of Samu Kerevi and Kyle Godwin, and it proved to me and also the Waratahs coaching staff that I could step up to Super Rugby in 2016. In saying that, I certainly wasn’t 100% satisfied with my first Super Rugby season, so the NRC gives me a perfect avenue to play some good footy and prove what I can do all over again.

2016 Buildcorp NRC, Round Two (all times local):
- Sydney Rays vs. Perth Spirit, 6:30pm Friday September 2nd, North Sydney Ova
- Brisbane City vs. Western Sydney Rams, Saturday September 3rd, Ballymore, Brisbane (live on FOX Sports)
- Melbourne Rising vs. QLD Country, Sunday September 4th, Harlequin Rugby Club, Melbourne
- UC Vikings vs. NSW Country Eagles, Sunday September 4th, Viking Park, Canberra (live on FOX Sports)

Pete Fairbairn
Communications Manager
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