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Robinson in a realistic mood

Returning to his home province for his first representative coaching role was a no-brainer for new Wairarapa-Bush Heartland coach Reece Robinson.

“Ever since I’ve got into coaching, I’ve always thought it would be nice to coach Wai-Bush; that’s where I started my rugby back in the 80s for the Eketahuna midgets, and it just felt right,” Robinson said.

“The big thing too is the reason I got into coaching is to give back to rugby. It’s been really good to me but to give back to the union where everything started for me, it just seemed right.”

The 44-year-old brings an extensive playing record, having represented the Central Region, and New Zealand secondary school teams while at Tararua College.

Robinson played national championship rugby for the now-defunct Central Vikings, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu, and Taranaki. He had eight Super Rugby appearances for the Chiefs and represented the Maori All Blacks six times from 2000 to 2003. He was selected for the 1998 NZ Colts, the NZ Divisional XV in 2000, was named 2001 Second Division Player of the Year, and played professionally in Japan.

Since retiring, Robinson has coached the Palmerston North Old Boys Marist premier team to victory in the 2017 Manawatu championship and the runners-up spot in 2022.

Robinson and his family are building a new home in Wairarapa, and he has founded a home handyman business, so he said the time was right to put his hand up the Wai-Bush job.

The green and reds finished a disappointing 11th in the 12-team Heartland Championship last season, which followed a 10th place finish in 2020, and Robinson is aware of the challenges that lay ahead.

“The last couple of years there could be a number of reasons, but probably due to covid and the lack of club rugby these players have had, it’s probably affected them a little bit,” he said.

“I watched a couple of games this year and a couple of errors I picked up, our work ethic wasn’t quite there, probably off the ball, and our conditioning wasn’t quite up to the Heartland levels.”

Robinson felt that despite the poor results, coaches Mark Rutene and Jamie Williams had built a good foundation over the last couple of years and he’s excited about coming in, implementing some ideas, changing a few things and getting some good results.

He cited the 55-39 victory over Buller in the final game of the season as evidence of the talent in the province.


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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