STEELFORM Wanganui’s first outing of the season has posed questions for Jason Caskey.
But they’re the type a coach enjoys having to answer. The 19-12 win over Wairarapa-Bush on Wednesday night by a Wanganui team without its core of experienced players bodes well for the squad’s depth heading into the season.
Rather anyone playing themselves out of contention, Caskey will have to make some tough choices when he names his final Heartland Championship squad.
The match in Palmerston North was Caskey’s first chance to assess some fringe players against provincial opposition and a tight contest provided that.
“As a whole, I think the majority of them actually played well. I was pretty happy with them all,” he said.
“It gives us a lot of questions, more positive than negative. It’s quite exciting to see that the next tier are not too far off.”
Wanganui quickly warmed to the task, scoring first before Wairarapa levelled at 7-all by halftime. “We defended pretty well and hung in there and worked pretty hard.”
Caskey wanted to see his side passing wide and putting players in space rather than using inside channels. “We did that in stages. When it’s the first-up games, you’re trying to get them out of club habits. The guys ran nice and hard, ran with a fair bit of purpose and ran into space.”
He expected to come up against a well-prepared Wairarapa side who have a Ranfurly Shield Challenge against Hawke’s Bay in a fortnight. To win was pleasing.
“That was a really good aspect for us,” Caskey said.
The players’ fitness would be the focus ahead of the next pre-season games in August.
“It wasn’t too bad but definitely one thing that needs to be improved,” Caskey said. “I think they found it a big step up in pace to what they’ve been playing but these games are always like that.”
Caskey says there will be a couple of fitness and skill sessions for the wider squad while the club season wraps up, before two pre-season games against King Country and Hawkes Bay B.
Wanganui’s Heartland Championship campaign kicks of against Horowhenua Kapiti in Levin on August 22.
Steelform Wanganui 19 (Samu Kubunavanua, Isi Baleitavuku, Ranato Tikoilosolomone tries; Isi Baleitavuku, Zyon Hekenui conv)
By Zaryd Wilson – Wanganui Chronicle