Wairarapa-Bush coach Joe Harwood and his squad of 2018. James Goodger is on his left. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Wairarapa-Bush rugby coach Joe Harwood doesn’t know what the future holds after the cancellation of this year’s Heartland Championship.

Harwood coached Wai-Bush to last year’s Meads Cup semifinals where they lost to eventual champions North Otago. In 2018 Wai-Bush lost to Horowhenua-Kapiti in the Lochore Cup final.

The tournament was canned because of the covid-19 lockdown and although disappointed with that, Harwood supported the decision.

“We were excited for the chance to build on what we did in the past two years and there was a lot of enthusiasm from within the playing group,” he said.

“A lot of work had been going on behind the scenes and we had the commitment from some of our guys living outside the region to come back and play club rugby and have a crack at playing Heartland rugby.

“At the end of the day, our message to our players is to be with whanau and put rugby on hold until it’s over.”

Harwood said he didn’t know what the future holds.

He said he and his management group were to have a conference call with Wai-Bush chief executive officer Tony Hargood on Tuesday night to discuss further.

“As a management group we don’t know where we sit. We were contracted for this year, and it’s a bit of unknown at this stage – but it could be the end of the road.”

The cancellation of the Meads Cup and Lochore Cup will probably have the club season extended into August and September and Harwood was fully supportive of that.

“The bigger picture when we get back playing is club rugby and how important that is to the local communities,” he said.

“More importantly, there are a lot of people out there doing it hard. This has hit a lot of families and there are others at home struggling.

“My message to our guys is to keep an eye out for each other.”

Veteran Wai-Bush utility forward James Goodger had been putting in the hard yards improving his fitness for the season and was, like Harwood, disappointed by the cancellation.

“It’s got to be done. It’s only one year and there are plenty of other years ahead. We’ve got to look long term,” he said.

“I’ve been working pretty hard, but it doesn’t matter, and I’m staying positive. I’m happy to sacrifice one year of rugby.”

Goodger, who plays for Marist, was all for extending the club rugby season.

“It will be really interesting to see how it pans out.

“Will it be one round with the winner takes all? It’s going to be interesting and it will create a tough club scene. I’m 100 per cent behind it.”

Time to pick the loosies

With only three days to go before the Wairarapa-Bush team to play the 1985 Auckland side in a virtual game is revealed, the focus shifts to the loose forwards.

Wai-Bush finished fourth in the 1985 NPC first division that year, scalping Canterbury, Otago and Wellington [20-19].

However, there were no semifinals in the 1980s and Auckland were the only province that Wai-Bush failed to beat in their six seasons in the first division.

To right the wrong, Wai-Bush chief executive officer Tony Hargood has arranged for a virtual game between Auckland and Wai-Bush to be played at Eden Park at 2.30pm and ‘screened’ live on the union’s Facebook page.

He also wants Wai-Bush supporters to have a bit of fun and see how their 23 players match up against the ‘official’ team.

Each day over this week, the Times-Age is publishing a shortlist of players from each position.

On Wednesday, we put the spotlight on the loose forward trio.

Open-side [two genuine No 7s are required]: Joe Wyeth, Germaine Anaha, Mike Fleming, Bruce Bowie.

Blindside: Paul Hawkins, James Goodger, Dean Bassett, Brett Harvey

Number 8 [who can also cover blindside]: Tom Hullena, Merv Dudley, Carlos Baker, Tevita Issac.



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