By Gary Caffell
It will be more than the usual ordinary pre-season fixture when the Greytown and Paraparaumu rugby teams do battle at Memorial Park, Masterton on Saturday.
Normally these games would be all about giving prospective players for the opposing sides an early opportunity to stretch their legs in a competitive atmosphere with the end result being very much of secondary importance.
On this occasion, pride will be at stake as the two teams involved both won their union’s premier club titles in 2016 and adding extra spice is that the victor will become the first holder of the Tararua Challenge Trophy.
Greytown coach Eli Telford concedes that while it is his squad’s first serious hit-out as they prepare for the commencement of the 2017 club season on April 8 they are still intent on putting on a good show.
“We will be taking it pretty seriously . . . we want to win,” he said.
Telford recognises that Paraparaumu will be no easy beats.
They have won the Horowhenua-Kapiti club title for five successive seasons and many of their players have worn their union’s colours at Heartland Championship level.
Greytown have lost at least four players from last year’s Tui Cup-winning side — forwards Tana Isaac, Marcus Ale and Clinton Garrity and utility back Glen Walters, who was also in the Wairarapa-Bush side who made it to the semi-finals of the Meads Cup in the Heartland competition.
He will apparently be playing his rugby in Wellington in the coming season.
Compensating for these losses to some degree is that hard-running midfield back Michael Te Whare has transferred to Greytown from Marist and that forwards Tim Iro and Blane Kete have also returned after spending time in Australia.
They are versatile players, Iro being a contender for lock or No 8 and Kete for hooker or flanker.
Good news for Greytown too is that experienced prop Kurt Simmonds, a former Wairarapa-Bush skipper who whose appearances were very restricted last year, is back in the fold and he will be part of a front row also sure to include Nick Hohepa, a regular member of last season’s Heartland line-up.
Young lock Alex Henricksen — son of Greytown stalwart Norm — is an up and comer and while Regan Pope won’t be taking the field on Saturday through injury he is another middle rower certain to make a decent impact as the season progresses.
Greytown were extremely well served by their inside back combination of Hamish Meyrick and Kingi Kaiwai last season and they will be calling the shots there again while other backs returning include longtime Wairarapa-Bush rep Nick Olson, Tavita Isaac, and Raymond Oakley.
Kickoff for Saturday’s match is at 2pm.