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Harwood to coach Wairarapa-Bush

By Jake Beleski

[email protected]

Wairarapa-Bush has announced its new coach for the 2017 season, along with a bold new initiative it will implement to maximise local talent.

Joe Harwood will take control of the side that he captained to its lone Meads Cup title in 2006, after serving as an assistant to previous coach Josh Syms for the last two seasons.

The union also expressed its ambition to field a Heartland Championship team made up of local players and ‘players of origin’ only by 2019.

Harwood, who was awarded a two-year contract, said the union needed to take every opportunity to provide a pathway to the top for local players.

“Any opportunity to upskill and promote local-based players is fantastic but there’s certainly a lot of work that needs to be done between now and then in terms of developing school level rugby, work ethic and strength and conditioning as well.

“It’s a big challenge but certainly one that I think is achievable and realistic if we get the preparation right.”

Harwood coached Carterton to this year’s club final, where they were beaten by Greytown.

Getting a head coach role at Heartland Championship level had been a goal for some time, he said.

“The planning started to become more of a reality in the last two years, having been involved as an assistant.

“It’s an opportunity that I’m extremely grateful for, especially to Josh [Syms] and the union.”

Many of the staff that worked with Syms would be kept on board for 2017.

James Bruce has been retained as an assistant, and Gavin Hodder was re-appointed as manager.

Harwood knows the area well, having played most of his career in the region.

“I’ve been a local since I was a young fella and Wairarapa’s home.

“I played the majority of my club and representative footy here, in between going overseas on a couple of occasions.”

He said it would be baby steps to get the team to where it needed to be, but he was confident the right people had been chosen to do the job.

“We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves.

“The aim is to continue to develop what we have locally and to do that we need to have a good team around us — I’m confident we do with Brucey and Gavin Hodder.

“It’s small steps, but we’re certainly looking forward to the challenge.”

Wairarapa-Bush CEO Tony Hargood said the union’s decision to work towards a team of local players by 2019 was a bold one, but one they were ready to commit to.

“We have a number of other coaches who we have met with locally and we will now look to ensure they get all the opportunities to develop their skills through club and representative competition.

“As for the players, it is a clear message that they don’t need to look over their shoulders anymore — if you are playing club rugby, working hard and enjoying the game, you are going to get selected.”


  1. Sorry but to compete at this level we have to rely on import players. We just dont have the talent here. Getting crowds to games is about winning…. Its all good and well to say we have the talent… But we just dont… Its been tried before without imports and we failed. Also a risk picking coaches tjat while are local… Havent been sucessfull at club leverl.

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