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Harwood happy with his service

Joe Harwood, the Farriers Wairarapa-Bush Heartland Coach has stood down. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

Retiring Wairarapa-Bush coach Joe Harwood is pleased with the legacy he leaves after four years in the job.

Harwood confirmed on Sunday that Saturday’s 8-29 loss to Whanganui would be his last act after six years of being involved in the coaching of the side, the first two as assistant coach to Josh Syms, and the past four as the head coach, in a period which welcomed in a new philosophy of developing and encouraging home-grown players.

Harwood’s retirement comes 20 years after he made his representative debut as a hooker.

He went on to play 61 games in the green and red, and was part of the teams that won the 2005 NPC Division Three Championship, and the 2006 Meads Cup, and captained the team to victory, in the 2010 Lochore Cup final against Buller, in what was his last game.

Thrust into the head coaching in 2017, Harwood was at the forefront of implementing the new Wai-Bush Union “local player” and “building within” strategy.

“It was always a four-year plan to go local and we knew it was going to be hard, which it was at the start,” Harwood said.

“We always said it would take time to be able to compete and it was pleasing that last year we were competitive and we came close in the Meads Cup semifinal [lost 25-27 to North Otago].”

“Something that stood out for me was the support of those senior players in particular and we got a shot in the foot in the first year and a big reality wakeup call and it was guys back then like Cyrus Baker, and Tavita Isaac, and the Tufuga boys [Kirk and Max] who were really instrumental in supporting me as a coach, because they are the guys that bring the culture and character.”

Although Harwood was disappointed he didn’t get a chance to finish with a full Heartland Championship, which was cancelled because of the covid-19 pandemic, he was satisfied with this season despite Saturday’s loss at Cooks Gardens.

“It’s been a huge success. We had 14 new guys come into the squad this year and play, and you want the opportunity to do that and still put in those consistent performances. It’s what we’ve been working hard towards.”

“We played some pretty good attacking and good footy at times and what we managed to do was work hard as a team, and that was very noticeable, and we put in some consistent performances.”

“There are some good young players coming through, and there are some good senior guys there who have been there for a while, and a lot of those guys we all started together four years ago and now they’re seasoned campaigners so that experience is coming through and it’s really important that those guys stick together and keep working hard.”

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