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Promising players get a chance

Representative

Copthorne Wairarapa Bush coach Reece Robinson has cast his net wide in naming the first squad of the season.

The second-year coach has selected 42 players to prepare for the traditional King’s Birthday clash with Central Hawke’s Bay to be played at Eketāhuna, although that will be whittled down to 26 for game day.

Some players are carrying injuries or niggles, which was one of the reasons why Robinson and his fellow selectors went for a large squad, as well as giving some younger players a chance to impress.

“We want to make sure we reward the players for performing well in the first round [of club rugby], and there are a lot of young players named in there, and it’s a great opportunity to rub shoulders with the older players, but also for us to see how they adapt and operate when they’re playing at a higher level,” Robinson said.

“For us, it’s really important that we know that they can make that step up if need be during the Heartland season.”

Two of the younger players who have impressed Robinson are Carterton prop William Kloeg and Greytown hooker Conley Alexander, who is in his first year out of college.

“Kloeg is a big young man, and we’re keen to work with him and try and develop him because prop-wise locally, we don’t have much depth, so he’s a player we really want to work with, and Conley Alexander is another young player who has all the attributes to be a great player so he deserves his opportunity.”

Martinborough have the biggest representation in the squad with nine players; defending champions Carterton and a resurgent Eketāhuna have seven players, while Marist have six, the same number as the new boys to premier rugby Masterton Red Star who have five forwards, including hooker Caedman Hawkins.

“He’s come through the Heartland under-20s, and he’s probably got one of the best throws in the comp, but like other players, he’s got a few areas where we need to work with him, but he’s got some size too, which his great. Prop Joseph Heihei, no. 8 Tama Bartlett and workhorse lock Cody McGlashan are others from the club to impress Robinson, who predicts a good future for the club if they can retain their promising young players.

“I like the way they play; they’re not afraid to play that ruck and run rugby and have put a lot of teams under pressure.

“They were up 10–0 against Carterton, and if they can sustain putting the pressure on for long periods of time, they will probably knock over some teams in the second round,” he said.

On the club season so far, Robinson believes the start of the competition was behind where it was last year but it has steadily improved.

“What’s been good is that the results have been really close, there’s been a lot of competition, and the last two weeks, we’ve seen some exciting rugby, so come the second round, it should be exciting, and there will be a number of teams in contention for the top four.

“On the flip side, individually, it’s important that we stress to these players that they need to do some additional work outside of their club rugby. I probably feel that we’re a little bit behind conditioning-wise.”

The squad will have its first training tonight at the Masterton Red Star grounds at Colombo Road.

PREMIER CLUB RUGBY

The winners of the Lane Penn Cup for the first round of the Wairarapa Bush premier season will be decided at Eketāhuna on Saturday after East Coast defaulted their match with Carterton.

East Coast coach Guy Williams reluctantly pulled the pin on their final-round clash, citing a lengthy list of injuries, which has resulted in him struggling to field a team in recent weeks.

The default gives Carterton a 28–0 bonus point victory, lifting them to 29 points, five clear of Martinborough, who face a tricky away trip to Eketāhuna.

That means Martinborough will need to beat Eketāhuna and score four tries for a bonus, with the first criteria to break a tie being the “highest number of wins in matches played between the teams in pool play.”

WOMEN’S RUGBY

Wairarapa Wahine Toa 15
Freyberg Old Boys 41

Wairarapa Wahine Toa coach Brent Gare is rapt with the team’s progress after their third-round effort against a strong Freyberg Old Boys in the Manawatu Women’s Premier Championship.

Although Wairarapa were well beaten on the scoreboard, Gare was impressed with the improvement from two heavy losses in the first two rounds.

“There was a lot more energy, and there was a much better defensive effort,” Gare said.

“As long as we improve on one or two things every week, I’ll be happy.”

Gare said the return of lock Monique Kloeg, who had intended not to play this year, added much-needed experience and go-forward to the pack.

Prop Annemieke van Vliet and no. 8 Jinaya Blundell-Harmon had outstanding games, while fullback Nevengka Valakvi Jellie scored the try of the day, a brilliant 60m solo run in which she outstripped several defenders.

The task doesn’t get any easier for Wairarapa on Saturday when they host Kia Toa, who beat them 71–17 in their first-round encounter. Kick is at 2.45 pm at the Solway Showgrounds.

The Wairarapa Bush squad:

Forwards: Tupou Lea’aemanu, William Kloeg, Malakai Biumaiwai, Mitieli Waqa, Iserili Biumaiwai [Carterton]; Mate Manesa, Joe Heihei, Caedman Hawkins, Tama Bartlett, Cody McGlashan [Mstn Red Star]; Stan Wright Jnr, Sam Siaosi, Tom Campbell [Marist]; Conley Alexander, Rongomatane Huirama [Greytown]; Sekove Finanu, Sam Gammie, BJ Campbell [Eketāhuna]; Tiawharangi Aranui, Cody Cunningham, Ryan Knell [Martinborough]; Thomas Williams, Matt Perry [East Coast].

Backs: Benazzi Ward, Ashton Coates, Eketāhuna]; Josh Matthews, Tipene Haira, Michael Buick, Bryce Cummings, Conall Doyle, Shane Colton [Martinborough]; Zinny Harmon, Nikora Ewe [Pioneer]; Tafa Tafa, Charles Mataitai, Hayden Cooper [Marist]; Fiula Tameilau, Aseri Waqa [Carterton]; Thomas Innes [Mstn Red Star]; Joseph Te Naihi [Greytown].

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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