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Gun loosies boost Eketahuna

Sam Gammie on the burst for Eketahuna against Carterton last season. PHOTO/FILE

By Gary Caffell

Eketahuna will be fielding a potent loose forward combination when they kick off their 2017 Wairarapa-Bush premier division rugby campaign with a match against Marist under lights at Eketahuna on
Friday night.

New Zealand Heartland representative from last season, Sam Gammie, and another player who has scaled those heights in Johan van Vliet will be on the flanks with one of the mainstays of the Wairarapa-Bush squad over the past couple of seasons, Brendan “BJ” Campbell, at No 8.

Having three players of this calibre contesting ball at the breakdowns and harassing opposing inside backs would be a huge plus for any side and Eketahuna coach Chris Osborne justifiably anticipates them having a big impact on a regular basis.

Another forward expected to feature prominently for the only Bush-based side in the premier grade is lock Jono Todd.

In the backs Eketahuna should benefit immensely from the versatility of players like Robbie Anderson, Chris Terry, Tom Meuli and Dion Havea, all of whom can fill a number of roles there.

Dane Hopa and a newcomer from the Nelson-Bays area in Jake Beleski should also make their presence felt.

Carterton dominated the first round of the premier grade last season and took away the coveted Chris Kapene Memorial Trophy as a consequence but with several of that team missing in 2017 new coach Chris Senior stops short of predicting a similar scenario this time round.

Senior, a former Wairarapa-Bush loosie who had significant success coaching the Wairarapa College first XV, will be without two of the outstanding players on the club scene last year — second-five Andy Humberstone and utility forward Johnie McFadzean.

Humberstone, who also did a fine job for Wairarapa-Bush, has returned to England while McFadzean has retired.

Up front Carterton will be relying heavily on regulars in Jacko Hull and Lachie McFadzean to lead the way along with a couple of new faces in front rower Thomas Kainuku and flanker Ethan Pinfold while Daryl Pickering and Jono Hurley are a proven inside back combination.

Utah Walker and Carlos Rimene are other backs likely to shine.

Martinborough coach James Bruce is delighted with the numbers turning up for training this season and optimistic his side will make a bold showing in 2017.

A former New Zealand under-17 and sevens rep, Amryn Sanders, has transferred from the Counties region and will be in midfield and the backline will also include the two Priests, Tim and Alex.

Alex Priest is a fullback-wing who made the national Heartland under-19s last season while Tim Priest has, of course, been a regular at first-five in Wairarapa-Bush teams over the past few seasons and has made the national Heartland senior side.

Lively flanker Chris Raymond will again be a mainstay of the Martinborough pack along with Kody Cunningham and Kody Thompson and a talented newcomer from Hawke’s Bay in lock Hugh Graham.

First round fixtures:

Friday night: Eketahuna v Marist. Saturday: Carterton v Pioneer, Gladstone v East Coast, Greytown v Martinborough.

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