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Club form takes priority for Wai-Bush

Kingi Kaiwai, strong contender for Hawke’s Bay match. PHOTO/FILE

By Gary Caffell

Surprises are in store when the Wairarapa-Bush rugby squad to play Hawke’s Bay in a non-championship fixture in Napier on Queen’s Birthday Monday is announced today.

That’s the word from new head coach Joe Harwood who said he and assistant James Bruce had placed considerable emphasis on club form in the selection process.

“We haven’t really taken too much account of age or experience, it’s more about giving guys who have been performing well week in and week out for their clubs the chance to play at a higher level,” Harwood said.

“And, yes, there will be some names who most people might expect to be there who have missed out because their form simply hasn’t been good enough.

“Hopefully they’ll recognise that and work harder to be considered for future games.”

Harwood said one of the most exciting features of the 26-man squad to be revealed today was the number of younger players who would deservedly get the opportunity to press claims for the Heartland championship team further down the track.

“We understand that facing a team such as Hawke’s Bay will be a huge step up from club rugby.

“But it’s also a great chance for them to show they can do a decent job for us at the higher level, and we’d hope that’s the way they will be approaching it.”

Amongst the younger crop likely to be in contention are East Coast halfback Brian Arnold and Marist prop Ryan Hargood, both of whom have been starring for their clubs on a regular basis.

It would also be no surprise if versatile Pioneer backs Reece Calkin and Joseph Thompson were in the mix as well for the same reason.

The age factor doesn’t only concern the young though, with Harwood adding that some more experienced players who had been given little opportunity to display their wares on the representative scene to date would also be part of the squad for the Napier game.

Right at the front of them, providing they are available, would have to be the very much in-form Greytown duo — No 8 Tavita Isaac and inside back Kingi Kaiwai — and Pioneer utility back Nikora Ewe whose barnstorming runs have left many a defender in his wake.

While the captaincy of the Heartland team won’t be confirmed for a few weeks yet, Gladstone loose forward Eddie Cranston has been given the nod for the Hawke’s Bay game and must be a warm favourite to continue on in that role after leading Wairarapa-Bush to a Meads Cup semi-final last year, and later being part of the national Heartland XV.

He won’t have his Gladstone teammate, Richard Puddy, alongside this time though, as Puddy has retired from representative play, a decision which Harwood agrees leaves a big hole to fill in the hooking ranks.

“It’s one of those positions in which we don’t have a lot of depth and he (Puddy) was a guy you could always rely on to give 100 per cent — we’ll miss him for sure.”

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