INTENSITY and, most of all, commitment are the primary features Jason Caskey and his Steelform Wanganui coaching staff will be looking for at Hunterville Domain on Monday afternoon as Tasman Tanning Premier club rugby takes a break in favour of the Town vs Country trial game.
As always, with the high turnover of amateur players from other commitments or injury, there are still plenty of spots available in the selectors’ plans for the Heartland Championship, as at least 12 of the Wanganui squad which won last year’s Lochore Cup will not play on Monday, including three of the four imports used.
The fourth, Bryn Hudson, made the move from Taranaki this season to play senior rugby for the new Ngamatapouri club, which will mean a busy Queen’s Birthday weekend as senior action continues on Saturday with a tough game against Ruapehu. There may end up being plenty of spots in any case because, of the 68 originally invited to trial, several have already declared themselves unavailable, while only 15 were at the Metro (Town) practice on Sunday and 14 turned up for the Northern (Country) run-around on Tuesday.
“I might get the [playing] job,” joked Country coach Gavin Thompson, who was left with predominantly the players from McCarthy’s Transport Ruapehu, PGG Wrightson/Ballance Taihape and one from Harvey Round Motors Ratana.
Williams was likewise disappointed, with only one of the table-topping Pirates players – veteran prop Brett Turner – coming to practice. The squad will get together at 11.30am to have a quick run through before a 1pm kickoff on Monday.
“They’ve just got to front, really. We’ve got some young blood up front – Jack Yarrall and that Kaierau boy, Josh Lane.
“Kameli [Kuruyabaki] and Poasa [Waqanibau] will be the midfield. That will be a lot of power there.”
His own Waverley Harvesting Border loose forward Kieran Hussey will also want a big game “under pressure” to show he can handle Heartland level.
“[Caskey’s] direction to me is, ‘I want to see the guys I don’t know a lot about’,” said Williams.
Caskey acknowledged that while the trial may has moved from the traditional midweek fixture and therefore has no Premier games as an excuse, there will still be those players who cannot be bothered.
“If we end up with 40-45 [players], it might be that.”
The game will be four quarters of 20m, with Caskey advising Williams and Thompson on who he would like to see go on to the field. There has been some good news – with key Ruapehu lock Nick Cranston making a welcome return to club rugby after missing the entire 2014 representative season with injury. The other position which needs attention is first-five, as from the 2014 playmakers, Taihape’s Dane Whale has moved on and Taranaki import Josh Hamilton is not likely to be back.
“We’re still looking, to be fair; it’s to see what happens if anyone puts their hand up,” said Caskey.
Also hoping the players take it seriously will be Hunterville Rugby Club members and supporters, who are hosting the game in a rare case of the trial being played away from Wanganui itself.
“They’re pretty excited about it, and good for them too,” said Caskey. “It won’t hurt the other [Town] buggers to go over there, that’s for sure.”
Those invited to trial are:
Town (Metro): Jake Alabaster, Cole Baldwin, Isi Baleitavuki, Simon Dibben, Joe Edwards, Aiden Fitzgerald, Richard Graham, Manu Herring, Jack Hodges, Lindsay Horrocks, Bryn Hudson, Kieran Hussey, Taylor Kirkwood, Kameli Kuruyabaki, Areta Lama, Josh Lane, Kampeli Latu, Sam Madams, Ace Malo, Fraser Middleton, Marama Penetito, Stephen Perofeta, Apenisa Ratugolea, Cade Robinson, Sam Stewart, Clive Stowers, Kane Tamou, Meni Taufaasu, Viki Tofa, Brett Turner, Bobo Ulukuta, Lasa Ulukuta, Pene Ulukuta, Saene Vili, Poasa Waqanibau, Jack Yarrall.
Country (Northern): Jamie Brett, Troy Brown, Jackson Campbell, Nick Cranston, Matt Crawford, Jaye Flaws, Tremaine Gilbert, Tawhio Gupwell, Gabriel Hakaraia, Fraser Hammond, Zyon Hekenui, Johnson Hiriroa, Glen Horton, Jamie Hughes, Josh Hurunui, Marius Joseph, Te Tua Kemp, Samu Kubunavanua, Michael Nabuliwaqa, Brett Nicholls, Cole Paki, Cyrus Paringati, Karl Parker, Hepa Payne, William Short, Jordan Stayt, Kereti Tamou, Cyrus Tasi, Taylor Transom, Roman Tutauha, Malakai Volau, Rimu Wipaki.
By Jared Smith – Wanganui Chronicle