Fresh from a fifth Shute Shield triumph with his beloved Sydney Uni, Paddy Ryan can’t wait to rip in for the NSW Country Eagles.
The Eagles kick-off their National Rugby Championship campaign against the Western Force in Perth on Sunday, and “probably couldn’t have a tougher start”.
“This is the team that’s had the best preparation, they’ve been playing the World Series Rugby over there and they’ve pretty much maintained that squad,” Ryan said.
“We’re on the road there as well and it’s a tough place to go and win.”
Ryan will be joined in Eagles colours by several of his victorious Sydney Uni team-mates, the students claiming their first Shute Shield since 2013 with a dominant 45-12 win over Warringah.
“We got a great coach down there in Rob Taylor, an awesome captain in Rohan O’Regan and a great group of boys so for them to be able to win a title was pretty special and to be a part of it was really special as well and something I’m particularly proud of,” Ryan said.
There can’t be many better feelings as a front rower than feeling the opposition scrum crumble, and for Ryan the win was all the more satisfying for the way the Uni pack monstered the Rats’.
“To be part of a strong forward pack is something really special and the boys worked hard and reaped the rewards,” he said.
The Tamworth product has made no secret of how proud he is to no only represent the Eagles, but captain them.
“Eagles is quite a special team. They’ve really built a great following in the country,” he said.
This years edition will again see them playing games in Armidale (September 23) and Tamworth (October 13).
The latter will be the final round.
“It’s a great opportunity to bring a different level of rugby back to the country in a time of the year when there’s not a lot of rugby being played,” Ryan said.
“It’s going to be fun. The ethos around the Eagles is to get in, rip in with the community stuff, to play hard and then to enjoy themselves on the town afterwards.”
“There’s a great vibe around the group and I’m really looking forward to getting into it.”
He is also excited to see Sydney Uni team-mate and Narrabri native Will McDonnell, and former Pirates team-mate Mick Snowden get their opportunity.
“I think for Will, he’s had a great year and I think he’s the kind of bloke that you can see go further in his rugby endeavours,” he said.
Snowden was part of the inaugural Eagles squad.
“His experience will be really valuable, particularly as I think the way Jake’s (Gordon) playing there’s a good chance he may be with the Wallabies at some point during the NRC and I think it will be great to have Mick there to step up and be able to control that ship,” Ryan said.
“He’s a different half-back to Jake, but he’s also a great half-back to have behind your pack. He’s got a great kicking game, a great pass and he’s really good at directing forwards around.”
The Eagles have picked up a few notable recruits.
“The Western Sydney Rams amalgamated with us and the Rays, so we’ve got a Sydney team and a Country team now, which is kind of the way it should be I feel,” Ryan said.
“That’s meant we’ve got Mack Mason, which is a great addition, Jed Holloway was obviously in career best form at the end of the Tahs season and Will Miller is playing really well.”