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Experience big plus for Gladstone

Gladstone lock Andrew McLean charges at the Carterton defence during a Tui Cup fixture last season. PHOTO/FILE

By Gary Caffell

Gladstone are invariably serious contenders for the major spoils in the Wairarapa-Bush Tui Cup premier division rugby competition, the 2017 edition of which will kick off this weekend.

And it is hard to imagine that under the astute guidance of regular head coach, Steve Thompson, they won’t be thereabouts again when it comes to the business end of this season.

Thompson has had some headaches settling on his front row because three of his props from last season are no longer available but any side that can call on the experience of players such as Wairarapa-Bush reps Andrew McLean, Eddie Cranston and Richard Puddy plus John Stevenson up front should still be very competitive in the battle for possession.

Look too for a couple of relative newcomers in the loose forward department — Scott Harpin and John Gatenby — to make an impression as well.

In the backs, Gladstone have gained the services of Englishman Joe Satchell while another new face in Matt Murphy from Taihape will contest for the halfback berth with the always exciting Inia Katia, whose versatility means he can fill virtually any position in the rearguard.

Cliff Renwick and Cameron Hayton are midfielders sure to have an impact too.

Marist, coached by Nathan Riwai-Couch, have injury woes even before the season begins with two of their more prominent forwards in Kieran O’Brien and Henry Wilson likely to be sidelined for several weeks and utility back Jordan McDowall dislocating a shoulder last week.

National Heartland rep James Goodger will again be the mainstay of the pack with support from fellow Wairarapa-Bush players Stan Wright and Liam Devine, hard-working loosie Rhys Severn and prop Shannon Rimene while Soli Malatai, Leo Eno and Pua Tafa are backs who have shone at club level in the past, and can be expected to do so again.

Defending Tui Cup champions Greytown will contain several new faces this season, including forwards Tim Iro, Blane Kete, Louis Bush and Herewini Amundsen and talented midfield back Michael Te Whare, who has transferred from Marist.

Upfront, Greytown will also benefit from the experience of old hands Kurt Simmonds, Regan Pope and Tavita Isaac and Nick Hohepa while younger players such as Alex Henricksen and Chaz Matthews should do a good job for coach Eli Telford there as well.

Hamish Meyrick and Kingi Kaiwai are a proven inside back combo and Nick Olson will again be on deck to provide the fireworks from fullback or wing.

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