Newcastle Rugby: Brothers in arms as Easts build on culture

FAMILY AFFAIR: L-R Trinity and Thomas Bluegum, James Difford, Tom and Ben Saunders and Bowie and Fabian Tukaki. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
FAMILY AFFAIR: L-R Trinity and Thomas Bluegum, James Difford, Tom and Ben Saunders and Bowie and Fabian Tukaki. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

EASTS coach Trinity Bluegum didn’t have to worry about forming combinations this season.

Nor has he had to put an arm around or bark instructions to his players too often.

Trinity and older sibling and halfback Tom are among four sets of brothers in the side. Also included in the mix are cousins and nephews.

“It’s a pretty unique situation and has made my job easier,” Bluegum said. “As well as tactics and fitness, normally a big part of coaching is bringing the players together and getting them to gel.  As brothers, there is a connection between them that I can’t coach. They don’t make excuses for each other and they challenge each other. The best thing is that they are the first to pick their brother up when they are having a hard time at training or in a game. They are there for each other. It re-enforces what I am trying to do here. I base the club on family, being a family-orientated club. Everyone in the team, regardless of if they are blood brothers, are brothers here. It is one big family.”

Trinity’s older sibling, former Hamilton premiership winner, Tom is the halfback. His nephews Bowie (hooker) and Fabian Tukaki (No.8) are in the pack. The coach’s 19-year-old son Phoenix is the blindside breakaway. Joseph and James Difford are second-rowers. Tom (openside breakaway) and Ben Saunders (wing) complete the set of siblings.

“Having brothers there, the loyalty is huge,” the coach said. “They are always competing against each others and there is normally a brother who thinks he is dominant, so the leadership is there. The love between the brothers is pretty apparent too. It is a bit of a flow on when you get sets of brothers. They look after each other.”

Trinity and Tom grew up in Whakatine in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty but hadn’t played together in 20 years until recently. Even now, Trinity only plays the odd game.

“Tom is a great mentor, especially for the younger boys.”

Phoenix is among the young brigade and is back at Dangar Park after a year playing for Penrith (under-18s).

“He was going to play for Eastwood this year but decided to come back and play with the brothers at Easts,” Bluegum said. “A season here and we will see what happens. Hopefully I can play at least one more game him.”

That game could be Saturday when second-placed Easts take on leaders and arch rivals The Waratahs for the John Tsoprow Shield.

“It’s old boys’ day at Dangar Park and a huge game for us,” Bluegum said. “It’s the first time the Tsoprow Shield has been contested for a long time. There is a lot of history there. It is a big thing for us sets of brothers to live up to.”

Defending divisional premiers, Easts are coming off a 27-5 defeat to Muswellbrook.

“The loss was a big wake up call,” Bluegum said. “As a coach I always learn so much more from a loss than a win.”

“The loss came at a good time. We have two games left going into the finals. Regardless of where we are on the table, because of last year, everyone wants to beat us. For me it is exciting.”