While Steelform Wanganui welcome back winger Cameron Crowley for tomorrow’s third round Mitre 10 Heartland Championship match in Gisborne, they will understand if the 46 game veteran has one foot out the door.
The 28-year-old Crowley is on baby watch with his partner, and thanks to Air Chathams coming on board as the WRFU’s official carrier, will be able to minimise his time away for the Poverty Bay match, should their bundle of joy be ready for its own kickoff.
The Air Chathams Wanganui Under 18’s are getting a lift from their naming sponsor to Gisborne on Saturday morning, before heading to Ruatoria to play East Coast U18 in a quick turnaround from their final preseason match – a 21-20 loss to Thames Valley U18 at Cooks Gardens on Wednesday.
Crowley, nicknamed ‘Fossil’, will be flying out with the youngsters and then also joining them for the trip home that afternoon, while the rest of the Wanganui Heartland squad will be staying overnight and coming back on Sunday morning.
Coach Jason Caskey said unless the baby looks like arriving on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, Crowley should be fine in between the two 60 minute direct flights to make his comeback from rib damage in August’s Ranfurly Shield challenge.
Crowley’s return is one of several rotation changes and comebacks from injury which changes the team that played in Greymouth last weekend.
Captain Campbell Hart has recovered from the infection to his knee which sidelined him against West Coast, while No 8 Tremaine Gilbert returns from his ankle injury, with Angus Middleton’s strong form seeing him take the No 7 jumper, with Jamie Hughes going back to the bench.
While prop tryscoring prop Kamipeli Latu’s ankle is better than initially feared, he is being rested this week, and Viki Tofa and Dylan Gallien also move back to the bench to make way for an all-new front row in Wiremu Cottrell, Jack Yarrall and Gabriel Hakaraia.
Caskey has complete confidence in the young trio – with Hakaraia having performed strongly while Cottrell was a tryscorer for the Wanganui Toyota Development XV last weekend.
“They’re playing well,” said the coach.
That Development game was also the first look at Auckland import Michael Tafili, who despite flu and being in his comeback from a broken arm, was still a tryscorer and showed some potential.
Caskey had been in discussions with the 25-year-old since July, but the plate inserted into Tafili’s arm was causing discomfort and needed another few weeks rehabilitation before he could join the scene.
“He’s a pretty fit sort of guy, even though he hasn’t been playing.
“We need a bit more ball carrying. He will be a little short on game time but we’ve got a few weeks to get him up to speed.”
Wanganui’s Bryn Hudson has also been working through injuries and lack of game time, but will hopefully turn out for the Development XV this weekend.
Other changes see lock Sam Madams back in the starting lineup, with Peter-Travis Hay-Horton and Jackson Campbell not included this week, while Kameli Kuruyabaki and Shandon Scott return as the back reserves, ahead of Josh Fifita and Simon Dibben.
Distant eighth in 2017, Poverty Bay started their campaign with a 27-22 comeback win over Wairarapa Bush in Gisborne, while they hung with South Canterbury for 65 minutes before being over run 40-11 in Timaru.
Traditionally an attack-orientated side, Caskey said Poverty Bay are the type of team who can put 20 points on you even without the better control of the game.
“It’s never too easy, especially at home. We’re always well aware of what they present, they can always score a few points.
“It’s always a case of having to score more to win it.”
The Wanganui team is
1. Wiremu Cottrell; 2. Jack Yarrall; 3. Gabriel Hakaraia; 4. Sam Madams; 5. Henri Williams; 6. Campbell Hart (c); 7. Angus Middleton; 8. Tremaine Gilbert; 9. Lindsay Horrocks; 10. Dane Whale; 11. Cameron Crowley; 12. Penijamini Nabainivalu; 13. Kaveni Dabenaise; 14. Harry Symes; 15. Craig Clare.
Reserves – Forwards: 16. Dylan Gallien; 17. Viki Tofa; 18. Michael Tafili; 19. Jamie Hughes. Backs: 20. Tyler Rogers-Holden; 21. Kameli Kuruyabaki; 22. Shandon Scott.
Wanganui Chronicle By: Jared Smith