Holloway to the Waratahs' rugby rescue
Powerhouse back-rower Jed Holloway is pledging to fill a leadership void as the NSW Waratahs undergo a massive generational change in 2017.
With stalwarts Dave Dennis, Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Kurtley Beale plus Kiwi winger Zac Guildford having all moved on and the injury-enforced retirement of prop Benn Robinson - NSW's most-capped player - the 2014 champions will be without some 742 games of Super Rugby experience.
"We've lost four guys with over 10 years' experience and in some ways while it's sad that that's occurred, it's also an opportunity for the next tier of leader to come through," Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said on Friday.
In addition to Wallabies stars Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Rob Horne and Sekope Kepu, Gibson has nominated returning hooker Damien Fitzpatrick and Holloway as new-era leaders of the Tahs.
"There's a real opportunity to have their time in the sun now," he said.
And after a shoulder injury wiped out half of Holloway's season, following an explosive, record-setting start to 2016 in which he became the first substitute to bag a hat-trick of tries off the bench, Holloway is hungry to accept the coach's challenge.
"I'm not the young buck anymore, 'cos I'm one of the older ones here," the 24-year-old.
"So I think it's my time to start stepping up and taking some ownership around that stuff and Daryl has been willing to give me that opportunity."
Holloway is making no secret of his desire to make up for lost time.
It's been six months since he last played and missing out on an almost certain Wallabies call-up also hurt.
"No one wants to be injured and seeing guys getting opportunities," said the strapping No.8.
"But I just love playing in this team. My excitement is for the year ahead and the amount of good young guys, good people coming into the squad, and just really want to develop our game and make our team great.
"I can't wait till February comes around and start playing footy again.
"I just know if I play my best footy for NSW, then I can reach those goals that I've set out for myself."
In his second year as head coach after taking the reins from Michael Cheka, Gibson is making no promises to Waratahs fans.
But he is excited about the changing of the guard, with Kepu, 30, and Dean Mumm, 32, the only thirty-something players in the 35-man squad.
"I'm certainly not going to predict that we're going to be in the grand final or anything, but certainly we've got a fairly decent squad and it's going to be very stable for the next five years," Gibson said.
"It's been through that transition period and now we're definitely going to be the same for a wee while.
"And through that, you can build a real base to launch from and that's something we've set ourselves and are we're quite capable of doing."