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Banking on homegrown talent

East Coast halfback Bryan Arnold is a new face in the Heartland squad. PHOTO/FILE

Call-up for Tufuga brothers

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

The use of homegrown talent and the inclusion of four brothers are the highlights of the Farriers Wairarapa-Bush squad named for this year’s Heartland Championship.

The 31-strong squad named on Tuesday is made up of players from the Wairarapa-Bush premier competition and players who have their origins in Wairarapa.

For the first time in the union’s history, four brothers have been named in the squad.

For the first time in the union’s history, four brothers have been named in the squad. Kirk and Max Tufuga attended Chanel College, while Sam and Ueta Tufuga attended Rathkeale College.

They are now based in Palmerston North.

Max played his club rugby at prop for Eketahuna and Kirk played 11 games at No 8 for Wairarapa-Bush last year. Sam, a prop, and Ueta, a hard-running midfield back, play for the Varsity club in the Manawatu premier competition.

Wairarapa-Bush coach Joe Harwood named Sam and Ueta in the squad, despite still waiting for clearance from the Manawatu union.

“We’ve been a bit bold naming Sam and Ueta given that we’re waiting for clearance,” Harwood said.

“But we’re excited about what they will bring to the team. Sam can prop on either side, and Ueta has been in the Hurricanes development programme.

“He’s a strong ball carrier, is big and physical, and a dominant defender.”

There have been two instances of three brothers playing for Wairarapa-Bush in the same season since amalgamation but no records of four brothers.

The McFadzean brothers – Corey, Lachie, and John – played together in the 2015 Heartland campaign and Marty, Paddy, and Chris Berry were all members of the 1986 NPC first division team.

The Tufuga brothers aren’t the only brothers in the team.

Veteran first-five Tim Priest has been joined by his fullback brother, Alex, who has yet to wear the green and red in a Heartland match.

Other newcomers in the backs are Greytown winger Moo Moo Falaniko, Gladstone speedster Logan Hebenton-Prendeville, and two of East Coast’s outstanding players – halfback Bryan Arnold and fullback Jack Wakeling.

In the forwards, powerful Gladstone No 8 Joe Tako has been rewarded for an outstanding club season and former Wairarapa College student, Bruce Kauika-Petersen, now playing for Northern United in Wellington, brings versatility. He can play at hooker and flanker.

The return of former captain Johan van Vliet, who played the last of his 31 games for the Bush in 2013, gives the squad two genuine openside flankers – the other being Gladstone’s Ryan Knell.

“Johan has been outstanding at club rugby, he’s strong over the ball, he brings heaps of experience and it’s been a long time since we’ve had two real fetchers,” Harwood said.

If there is an area the squad look short on size, it’s at lock.

Specialists Lachie McFadzean and Andrew Smith, utility forward James Goodger and regular Eketahuna No 8 Sam Shaw are options Harwood will consider for the middle row.

Harwood said using homegrown talent was important for the team.

“There’s been a big emphasis on using local boys. We’ve got four guys from outside the area who all have local roots and we’re excited about what they’ll bring to the team.”

Goodger retains the captaincy from last year and will have Eketahuna centre Robbie Anderson as vice-captain.

Harwood was disappointed several players made themselves unavailable.

Experienced Gladstone lock Andrew McLean, Greytown No 8 Tevita Isaac, promising young Martinborough No 8 Logan Flutey, and Greytown first-five Raniera Peterson and midfield back Teihana Brown are among the players who were unavailable for selection.

The squad will gather for a training camp from August 2-4.

Wairarapa-Bush Heartland Championship squad

Forwards
BJ Campbell [Eketahuna, 28 caps], Sam Gammie [Eketahuna, 25], James Goodger [Marist, 52, captain], Nicholas Hohepa [Greytown, 26], Bruce Kauika-Petersen [Northern United, Wellington 0], Ryan Knell [Gladstone, 9], Lachie McFadzean [Carterton, 44], James Pakoti [Martinborough, 19], Sam Shaw [Eketahuna, 2], Andrew Smith [Gladstone, 18], Joe Tako [Gladstone, 0], Kirk Tufuga [Varsity, Manawatu, 11], Max Tufuga [Eketahuna, 10], Sam Tufuga [Varsity, Manawatu, 0], Johan van Vliet [Eketahuna, 31].

Backs
Robbie Anderson [Eketahuna, 29, vice-captain], Bryan Arnold [East Coast, 0], Moo Moo Falaniko [Greytown, 0], Tristan Flutey [Martinborough, 7], Tipene Haira [Martinborough, 31], Nathan Hunt [Martinborough, 27], Inia Katia [Gladstone, 75], Daryl Pickering [Carterton, 12], Logan Heberton-Prendeville [Gladstone, 0], Brock Price [Carterton, 3], Alex Priest [Martinborough, 0], Tim Priest [Martinborough, 30], Ueta Tufuga [Varsity, Manawatu, 0], Jack Wakeling [East Coast, 0].

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