Multi-skilling rugby focus is working for Bathurst Bulldogs

WINGERS cleaning out at the breakdown, forwards who can do more than just making hard yards up the middle of the paddock – it is a new approach to rugby for the Bathurst Bulldogs and one which is working.

WE MEET AGAIN: The Bathurst Bulldogs will take on Cowra for the second time this season on Saturday. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK

WE MEET AGAIN: The Bathurst Bulldogs will take on Cowra for the second time this season on Saturday. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK

Though Bulldogs have had hiccups through the first five rounds of the Blowes Clothing Cup  – having suffered disappointing losses to Orange Emus and Dubbo Kangaroos – the Bathurst side has also produced some impressive rugby.

They toppled defending premiers Forbes and last Saturday at Ashwood Park were a class above Orange City when winning 61-5.

That result was pleasing to coach Dean Oxley not just for the score line, but the style of rugby which led to the nine-try performance.

He witnessed things like winger Ben Sheppeard and centre Harry Webber pushing forwards off the ball and forwards chasing hard to support backs when they found gaps in City’s defence. 

“We are available and aware now when we play. There are a lot of spaces, but you’ve got to be good enough to find those spaces,” he said.

“Teaching people to read rugby is really a difficult thing when you’re used to a very close-minded game and it’s not very exciting to watch.

It’s something I want them to think about, no forwards, no backs.

Dean Oxley

“When you are playing outside you can say ‘I’m only a winger’ or you can say ‘I’m really important to this team because I am getting possession in space’.

“In the coaching manual that I’m coaching from is the concept that we have a couple of positions which are individual skills and outside of that, I could take all the numbers off their backs.

“It’s something I want them to think about, no forwards, no backs. We have a line-out thrower, we have a halfback and we have a couple of props but outside of that, everyone needs to get the job done.

“Breakdown and attack has to be played by everyone. Multi-skilling – and we’ve got some people who aren’t used to doing it – but they are embracing it and they are having some fun.”

This Saturday Oxley is hoping to see his Bulldogs execute that style of rugby when playing away to Cowra.

Since the Bulldogs toppled Cowra 47-7 in round one, the Eagles have been boosted by new recruits. In the past fortnight they have beaten both Orange City and Forbes to sit just one point outside the top four and would no doubt love to add Bathurst to their list of victims. 

“They are waiting for us,” Oxley said.

“It’s the whole nature of this competition … it’s week-in, week-out, whoever turns up with their troops will certainly go close to winning the fixtures.

“We haven’t got a lot of big bodies, so we have to play smarter football.”