New Casino Cougars rugby league coach John Sione Va’a (right) with some of the club’s juniors Michael MacRae, 10, (front), Mitchell MacRae, 17, (rear left), and Brendan MacRae, 13.
New Casino Cougars rugby league coach John Sione Va’a (right) with some of the club’s juniors Michael MacRae, 10, (front), Mitchell MacRae, 17, (rear left), and Brendan MacRae, 13. David Nielsen

New coach for Cougars

NEW Casino Cougars rugby league coach John Sione Va’a is a firm believer in not sending a little man on a big man’s errand.

And knowing the Cougars’ lack of up-front enforcers confronting him next year, he’s been quick to do something about it.

Sione Va’a has brought more than just experience and an extensive junior development program to the former Northern Rivers Rugby League stronghold.

Two of four new towering front-row or second-row forwards from Sydney’s SG Ball competition have already started training in the Cougars’ pre-Christmas fitness squad, and the other two are set to join official training in the new year.

Three of them are 19-years-old, with former North Sydney Bears prop Jay Maseuli, the 18-year-old ‘baby’ of the bunch towering a little over two metres tall.

Samoan-born Wyon Mumuta is also bordering on two metres with a 130kg build, as is Adem Baskonyali, who toured England with the West Tigers development squad earlier this year.

Making up the last of the imports is burly half-hooker-second rower Neil Neemia who also trialled for the State Cup squad with Wests Tigers.

“It’s the first challenge I saw after speaking with Casino so I’ve done something about it,” Sione Va’a said yesterday, less than three weeks after taking up his contract with the Cougars.

“Good, solid forwards are essential to keep a team going forward and that’s where we’re headed next season.

“Casino has struggled a bit in recent years thanks to a lot of injuries and the loss of a few experienced players.

“I don’t intend to let that happen next year and apart from capitalising on junior development, we’ve got some very good players coming into the side.”

Sione Va’a has been quick to carry over his vast Sydney junior development programs into the local competition with nine weekly sessions catering for 12- to 15-year-old players.

The former prop with Tweed Heads Seagulls and the Chargers in the mid-1990s has headed many of Sydney’s premier junior development programs in recent years, including in the West Tigers’ ranks in 2009.

Born in New Zealand to Samoan parents, Sione Va’a took up a scholarship with the St George club and played his first seasons with the Newtown Jets feeder club before winning the Metropolitan competition premiership in 1993.

Sione Va’a returned to Sydney after his 1997 season with the Chargers and quickly became involved with coaching and running junior development programs with Parramatta and West Tigers.



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