Piri Weepu . . . vast knowledge beneficial. PHOTO/FILE
Piri Weepu’s association with the Wairarapa-Bush Heartland Championship rugby team may not have ended.
The former All Black announced his retirement from playing after completing his first season in Wairarapa-Bush colours last year but coach Joe Harwood revealed on Monday that he had offered to help “in any way possible” in a coaching capacity in 2018, and it was an offer he was keen to take up.
“We haven’t firmed anything up yet but personally I think it would be great to have Piri on board, we got a taste of what his wealth of knowledge could do for us last season.
“Obviously, it would be hugely beneficial to both myself and the players to have him with us again.”
If Weepu is involved, it will be on a part-time basis as he has already been appointed assistant coach of the Petone club’s senior side which plays in the Wellington competition, a role which would very probably preclude him from linking up with Wairarapa-Bush until near the beginning of their Heartland campaign.
Therefore, he will not be a contender for the Wairarapa-Bush assistant coach job left vacant by the decision of James Bruce to leave the post and focus on his head coach role with Martinborough’s senior A club team who made the final of the Tui Cup competition last season, losing there to Gladstone.
Harwood said having a “local” as assistant coach made sense because of the huge amount of preparatory work involved both on and off the field.
He had someone in mind but it would likely be another couple of weeks before anything was confirmed
Increasing the pool of playing talent in the Wairarapa-Bush region is a big priority for Harwood and his coaching staff.
Meetings with club coaches are being organised for the end of this month so that opportunities for recruitment from other regions — or even overseas — can be fully explored.
This is all part of a plan to have the Wairarapa-Bush Heartland squad comprised solely of players playing their club rugby in the local region but Harwood readily concedes that won’t happen unless the fitness and skill levels at club level show dramatic improvement on what has been displayed there in recent seasons.
“What we are saying to the local players is that if you are prepared to do the hard yards to get yourself to the point where you can perform well at Heartland competition level, then we will be 100 per cent behind you but if you are not then we might have to look elsewhere — the ball is in their court.”