Hot-stepping winger Sinoti Sinoti has backed Newcastle Falcons to show the clinical edge needed to thrive in the Gallagher Premiership when the new season gets up and running next month.
The Samoan international believes the fresh legs and youthful exuberance of his squad can both be contributing factors to the Falcons’ success, although regaining match sharpness and eliminating errors from their play both feature highly on his priority list.
Find out what Sinoti had to say in our in-depth Q&A.
Q: How excited are you for the season now? With the fixtures being announced and pre-season going on, does it feel a bit more real?
Sinoti Sinoti: Mate, all the boys are chatting about it all the time and are excited about everything that’s ahead for us. The fixtures coming out is a big one because you just want to get into it, and the fixture list puts a bit of structure onto things. We’re just building as a team, trying to find our groove, and everyone’s buzzing.
Q: You’ve done a few pre-seasons in your time – how do you approach it?
SS: Well, the young blokes here certainly keep me on my toes. The quality of our young guys is just unreal, and as well as wanting to try and help with them with bits of advice here and there, it’s also a massive inspiration for me to keep pushing myself, because I know they’re driving hard for selection all the time. Those guys are awesome, honestly, and I think people will see that this season.
Q: What do you think the Falcons will offer this season, and will people outside of the club perhaps underestimate us?
SS: They can think what they want mate – I honestly don’t care. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way, and I understand why people might have us as underdogs after just coming up, but we’re not here just to make up the numbers. We won every single game last season, but yeah, we know the Gallagher Premiership is another level up. That means we’re underdogs, fair enough, but when you’ve got that label pinned on you it can work wonders for you.
We’re just gearing up and focusing on ourselves, and once the comp starts people will hopefully see us firing. I think what we do need to understand is that we can’t get away with some of the mistakes we could in the Championship, because Premiership teams will punish you every time you for that. We can’t afford that because this is the big boys’ league, but I think we’re ready for it.
Q: How frustrating has it been not having a game since March?
SS: Haha, at my age you’d normally be happy to have a six-month break to get your body right, but we just want to get into it now. Like all the boys I’ve been ticking over during my time away from the club, and then working hard in pre-season, but any player will tell you they just want to play games. I’ve really enjoyed the training, and the boys have come in with a great mind-set.
There’s the question people ask about whether it benefits us not playing while the other Premiership teams are going at it every week, and I think like most people I can see both sides of it. You want a run of games to get into your rhythm and understand how each other plays, which you can’t always do in training. The other teams might have a little edge in that respect, but then we’re going to be coming in really fresh, having had a good period of time to put some plans in place.
We’ve got a couple of friendlies just to make sure things are running smoothly, and it’s all about getting the ‘W’ once the Prem starts. We need those wins, and we’re not thinking about anything else. It’s serious business, because this last year has put everything into perspective. People have been dying, been seriously ill and lost jobs. It gives you a clear focus as to what’s important, it definitely motivates you and we’re deadly serious about absolutely going for it this season.
Q: Mark Wilson has returned from Sale Sharks and taken over the captaincy. We all know what he offers on the pitch, but from a players’ perspective what’s he like behind the scenes?
SS: He’s just a good man, and I’m not saying that purely cos he’s my mate. He absolutely loves this club, make no mistake about that, and in terms of his captaincy style he’s someone who doesn’t talk much. He just does it mainly through his actions, and when the boys see him doing that it just gets the desired reaction. He says a few words, as you’d expect, but it’s mainly just through the graft that he’s doing and the example he sets, that he puts his message across. He’ll look to guys like Floody and other boys who’ve been around a lot to maybe say a few bits and look after certain areas, and that allows him to just do things in his own quiet way on the field. It works well, and through our leadership group it keeps everyone accountable for their actions.
Q: How has lockdown been for you?
SS: Yeah mate, it’s been interesting. We have a young daughter, so there’s been a bit of home-schooling. When I’m in charge it’s ice-cream and sweets for breakfast (only kidding!) until her mum wakes up and I get into trouble, but all joking aside it’s not been too bad. It’s good to have so much quality time with the family, which is unusual with our normal match schedule, but I don’t think anyone imagined it would go on for six months plus.
It’s crazy when you think about it, but I honestly feel blessed in my situation. Lots of people are in much worse situations, be it through health, their jobs or whatever, whereas for us playing professional rugby it’s not a massive hardship. I can’t even imagine how it’s been for people who’ve lost family members or had their jobs disappearing. I really feel for them, and it’s just one of those perspective things where you realise how lucky you are.
Q: You’re known as a player who excites people with the way you play the game, but who excites you when you watch rugby?
SS: When I was a kid it was all the old standard replies, like Jonah Lomu and David Campese. I loved watching those guys, and one of the main players who got me excited about rugby was actually English – Jason Robinson. I just love the way he played, and then from the modern era it’d be guys like Cheslin Kolbe for Toulouse. He’s just class.
In the Newcastle squad it would be my boy Adam Radwan, and I’m expecting big things from him. We’ve got a load of them, to be fair, and guys like Ben Stevenson can really light things up. Opposition-wise, I like watching Ollie Thorley and Louis Rees-Zammit at Gloucester. That’s what we’re going to be dealing with this season, but I think Radders is on that same page. I don’t just want Radders to be up against them, I want him to be outdoing them, so that people are asking Ollie Thorley how he’s going to cope with Adam Radwan, not the other way round. That’s the next step for Radders to make, but I’ll back him all the way to do it.
Q: You’re one of the crowd favourites at Kingston Park Stadium but it looks like we’ll be starting the season without fans inside the ground – how much of a miss will that be for you?
SS: Our fans are the absolute heart of the club, and it’s hugely sad if they’re not going to be able to be there for some of our games. Likewise for our sponsors and everyone who has given so much to support the club, although for me as a player it’s a bit of a strange one with the way I approach my own game. In my head I always play as if there are no fans in the stadium, because if I start to think about the supporters it can put me off.
It’s not meant as a negative comment at all, because I love the energy and strength that our supporters give to the boys. We desperately want that back, but for me as an individual I honestly just try and block out all the external factors. It’s probably funny at times for people watching, because I’m so hard on myself and I’ll shout allsorts of things to myself during a game. I’ve always done that, and I try to play like no-one’s watching me.
But I can say for sure, we’re desperately sad for any fans who can’t get to come to the games, because we know how much enjoyment they get out of it. I just hope we do those guys justice with our performances on the field, and get them the wins they deserve. We’ll absolutely work our socks off for our supporters, and that goes for every single player and member of staff.