Haylett-Petty: We never treat travel as an excuse
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By Pete Fairbairn, 06.09.16

The 2016 Buildcorp NRC kicked off last month, 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 David Horwitz and Steve Cummins, and this week we head west as Perth Spirit lock Ross Haylett-Petty gives us some insight into his side’s opening fortnight in the 2016 Buildcorp NRC.

It’s 22-year-old Haylett-Petty’s third NRC campaign, but after a breakthrough Super Rugby season where he added 13 appearances to the first 2 he earned in 2015, the young lock is being eased into the NRC. He’s yet to feature thus far as he focuses on a carefully manufactured training plan designed to allow him to take his game to the next level during the second half of the NRC and beyond.

Nonetheless he is of course heavily embedded into everything that’s happening at the ‘Perth Pigs’, and as he writes for RUPA there’s plenty to like from the 2014 NRC Grand Finalists.

Ross Haylett-Petty - In His Own Words, Round Three:

I haven’t featured so far in the NRC, and I won’t head to Sydney this week to face the Rams; I’ll more than likely return to action in Round Four, but I’ve certainly been keeping busy and working hard over here in Perth.

With the help of the coaches, we have been working on some of the things in my game which will benefit me in the back end of the NRC competition, and will help me to play at a higher level than where I finished off in Super Rugby this year.

Among other things, I am working on my balance into contact, my ability to break lines and my speed; little areas where I think I would have been more successful in Super Rugby this year if I had been able to prepare better in those areas. It’s great to have the time and the resources to be able to focus upon getting better, but I am looking forward to returning to the field shortly.

With Adam Coleman on Wallaby duty, myself not playing and a couple of the Western Force locks from this season heading overseas to play in France, three uncontracted players have been in action in the Spirit second row over the first two weeks. It has to be said that Kieran Stringer, Grayson Knapp and Hadleigh May have been really impressive so far, and have executed the game plan very well.

I’ve played a lot of Rugby previously with Kieran at Cottesloe in Perth’s Pindan Premier Grade, and in last year’s NRC; he’s somebody who it feels like has been around forever. He’s an absolute workhorse who loves playing Rugby, and he is playing NRC because he just loves testing himself and having a crack.

Grayson and Hadleigh are young guys who I haven’t seen a lot of previously, but they look really good and have earned their chance through Club Rugby. We’re really looking to develop our depth in Perth, and this competition is a great way to give these young guys coming through a shot to show what they are made of. All three of them work hard, and they have great attitudes and fit into the team very well, with Kieran calling the lineout as well.

I definitely think the fact that we have quite a few spots left to fill in the Force squad means that the NRC is a huge opportunity for the uncontracted players; upstairs (Western Force recruitment) are always going to look here in their own backyard first to fill those spots. I feel like a lot of the uncontracted players have embarked upon the NRC with that exact opportunity in mind, and they know this is a crack at the next step.

A lot of the uncontracted guys are young and are having fun more than anything, but there are definitely some with the ability to be at home in a professional program if they work hard enough so this is the time to show it. Perth Club Rugby isn’t as high a standard as say Sydney or Brisbane, so our uncontracted guys really have to step up to be competitive, but they’ve been great so far.

The guys who have really impressed are the guys who I watch do well at training but then they really step it up a level in the NRC games. (Prop) Shambeckler Vui has really impressed me; he has another level we all know he can get to and we’ve seen glimpses of that in the NRC already this year. The same with (back rower) Onehunga Havili; he is capable of being an absolute superstar.

He has all the physical traits and a whole lot of skill, so if he can continue to develop his mongrel, he has a huge future. Finally, Billy Meakes; I don’t watch a lot of Rugby so I’d never seen him play, but I have been very impressed with his skills and I am very happy we will see him in Super Rugby for the Force doing his thing next year!

It was great to win against the Melbourne Rising at home in Round One but then we went down to the Rays at North Sydney Oval on Friday night, and this week the squad head back to Sydney again to face the Rams.

Flying to Sydney two weeks in a row is a challenge for sure; it’s one of those things that other people raise as an excuse on our behalf but we never treat it that way.

It may be a factor, but in our mindset whenever people talk about Perth’s tougher travel schedule we don’t allow ourselves to fall into that trap. We put big emphasis on beating any team on any given day, and while we know from doing it in Super Rugby all the time it might take its toll, we never make any excuses or see it as the difference.

We have rotated our squads in the Buildcorp NRC a little more than other teams have in the past, which perhaps is a bit of a response to that tough travel schedule. We’ve been known to hold players from away games, but this year we’re not looking at the competition like that. We expect that we’re not able to get an easy schedule because of where we are, and we deal with it and back ourselves to win regardless; it’s a great attitude to try and maintain, and one I really enjoy playing with personally.

I don’t think teams underestimate us; we’ve been able to pull out some big results in the past, such as making the 2014 NRC final when nobody expected a whole lot from us and also when we sent a team of entirely Club players to Canberra in 2014 and they beat the Vikings. Once they’ve been selected for the Spirit, we know that any of our players can step up at any time.

In the NRC, nothing is a given; cross field kicks and quick taps come off, and games can turn in a minute. On any given day, anybody can beat anybody in this competition, and that’s one of the best things about it.

2016 Buildcorp NRC, Round Three (all times local):
- Western Sydney Rams vs. Perth Spirit, 1:00pm Saturday September 10th, Concord Oval, Sydney
- QLD Country vs. Sydney Rays, 3:00pm Saturday September 10th, Bond University, Gold Cast (live on Fox Sports)
- Brisbane City vs. Canberra Vikings, 1:00pm Sunday September 11th, Ballymore, Brisbane
- NSW Country Eagles vs. Melbourne Rising, 3:00pm Sunday September 11th, Magpies Rugby Club, Tamworth (live on Fox Sports)

06.09.16
Pete Fairbairn
Communications Manager
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