THEY are doing everything they can to earn the Wanganui sporting public’s faith – turn up tomorrow to see for yourself.
With back-to-back bonus point wins and sitting second on the Pink Batts Heartland Championship table, in a three-way tussle with the two Canterbury teams, Steelform Wanganui want to rally the troops to Cooks Gardens tomorrow for their second last regular season home game against King Country.
Big flanker Bryn Hudson took to Facebook after their 35-9 win over Buller last weekend, stating very clearly that while the few hundred supporters who were there were appreciated, the town “can do better”.
“Your support means the world to the team so bring all your friends and family next week for the big hit out against KC.
“Nothing lifts the boys up more than seeing a loaded up Cooks,” said Hudson.
“If you’re there, you might as well have a jersey on because you’re going to war with us.”
Coach Jason Caskey understands how “brutal” the expectations can be and local rugby supporters will vote with their feet if the team are not performing.
But with a 3-1 record in 2015, Wanganui are trying to play an expansive style that is not only letting them run away from teams, but can also be good entertainment.
They have scored 21 tries already, tied with South Canterbury as the most in the competition and against, arguably, the harder opponents.
“We want to play rugby that’s good to watch. It’s not like we stay all day kicking from nine or 10,” said Caskey.
“We want to enjoy it. If you can’t enjoy it, what’s the point of playing?
“Getting some more bums on seats would be brilliant.
“It gives them a hell of a lot more lift if they’re playing in front of more than a few hundred.”
If it is not pace and open play that pulls in the punters, then perhaps they will follow pride and courage.
Less than a month ago, 23-year-old flanker Daniel Fitzgerald was lying in agony on Levin Domain with his reconstructed shoulder out of its socket.
Told to take it easy and there was no pressure to make a comeback, a desperate Fitzgerald has convinced Caskey and the coaching staff to let him sit on the bench to provide another loose forward and lineout jumping option.
Caskey will bring him along carefully, but the reality is, there will be surgery for the young man if the shoulder is hurt again.
“It’s really on him – he got a clearance on Wednesday from a doctor in Palmerston,” said Caskey. “There’s no guarantees, it could pop out again. He said, ‘I’m keen to give it a go’.
“You worry about individuals. I know he was in a lot of pain when he got hurt.”
Fitzgerald will be surrounded by a lot of support in the pack because unavailablity sees the team going in with a 5-2 split between forwards and backs on the bench.
“With Stephen [Perofeta] away with the Baabaas, and Steelie [Koro] was out of town at training this week. We had Kane Tamou, but there was no point in three halves,” said Caskey.
William Short comes into the team for his first start at halfback, while Caskey will rely on the utility value of the starting backs like Trinity Spooner-Neera and Ace Malo to cover any injuries out wide.
Keeping in tight might not be a bad strategy given King Country’s inside backs will be very familiar with each other – all coming from the Otorohanga Rugby Club in the Waikato competition.
Te Hata Wilbore will link with origin player Joe Perawiti and Te Waiti Mareikura.
Other dangermen are flanker Anthony Wise – also from Otorohanga and the thorn in Wanganui’s side during their final pool game and Lochore Cup semifinal last year – along with lock Aarin Dunster and goal kicking halfback Zayn Tipping.
So far this campaign, King Country were run down 32-20 by Buller, beat Horowhenua Kapiti 34-28, lost to frontrunners Mid Canterbury 25-17, then thumped Thames Valley 47-12 last weekend.
Kickoff is 2.30pm, following the curtain-raiser between Wanganui Development and Wairarapa Bush Development for the RDO Shield.
By Jared Smith – Wanganui Chronicle