From Gunnedah Independent
New Gunnedah Red Devils first grade coach Jason Waerea and reserve grade co-coach, Josh Launders.
The ex-North Queenslander takes up the first grade coaching reins as the club prepares to celebrate its 125th year anniversary.
“I can’t wait to get into it,” Waerea said during a Devils’ meet-and-greet on Thursday evening.
Born in New Zealand but raised in Glenden, west of Mackay, he comes from a family of self-confessed “rugby tragics”.
Now happily settled in Gunnedah with a family of his own, it wasn’t long before a desire to return to his rugby roots resurfaced.
“”I was pretty impressed with what I saw the guys were capable of last year.” – New Devils coach Jason Waerea.”
“I came and watched a couple of hit-outs last year and I got a bit energised [about rugby] again,” he said.
“My wife said to me ‘it looked like you really enjoyed it being down there’ and I said ‘yeah I did’.”
Not only that, he could also see a bright future in wait for the Devils.
“I was pretty impressed with what I saw the guys were capable of last year and I’m excited to be part of their development this season,” he said.
Given his Kiwi heritage, it’s little surprise to learn of Jason’s passion for rugby. But growing up as a kid in country Queensland, that wasn’t always the case.
“We relocated to Australia when I was eight, so I grew up playing [rugby] league until high school where I took up playing rugby.
“It was the social aspect, the camaraderie of the game, that I fell in love with.”
He made state junior representative sides and joined his hometown club, the Glenden Gladiators, founded by his father.
He would later lead the side as captain-coach and surpass 100 games for the Gladiators but further development was limited.
“I had exhausted where I could go with rugby,” he said.
The real eye-opener came after a move to the capital where he played first grade rugby in Brisbane for a few years.
“You saw other athletes, a lot more athletic, but equally competitive as myself,” he said. “And the big thing was team effort and commitment.”
The ex-flanker also spent 14 years involved with rugby in Newcastle.
He said the only difference between higher level competitions and those in the Central North, was the duration of intensity.
“You see a lot of effort that goes in the desire to play for a country club and that’s wonderful,” he said,
“The skill level is high [in Central North].
“The intensity and maintaining it for a longer period of time is the only thing that would differ.”
Training-wise, Waerea planned a strong focus toward “getting game fit”.
“I’m pretty big on more of that game-style of training,” he said.
In reserve grade, the Devils will be led by 2015 mentor Alex Costello and new co-coach, Josh Launders.
Meanwhile Brendan Bain and Matthew Hannay will coach the Devils’ under-18s.
Long-time club stalwart Bruce Hockings has stepped into the Red Devils committee as president.
Sam Leys is vice president, Bobbie Insch, secretary and Paul O’Donnell, treasurer.
Bruce, who has held many other Devils positions previously but never president, planned to open “a new page” in the club story this year.
“I’d like to see the players take more ownership so they can feel like it’s their club,” Hockings said.
“Because the more you put into it, the more important it means to you.”
To help foster the club camaraderie, the Devils are considering raising a tour squad for a trip away, possibly as early as next year.
First up, the club will host its season launch (February 12), the 10-a-side Gunnedah knockout (March 19), followed by the Red Devils ball and reunion on the bye weekend, shortly after the season begins.
Pre-season training started earlier this week, while the first match of the 2016 Central North Rugby season kicks off in late April.