Kaierau looks to Ace in the hole against Taihape’s brothers-in-arms
By Jared Smith
“I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.”
- Toby Keith (2005)
Unable to say conclusively who will be wearing the jerseys to their left or their right, the Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau players will look to one man as they try to beat the odds at Memorial Park on Saturday.
Having lost an entire XV to injury at various stages of their Tasman Tanning Premier campaign, and coming off a 24-3 loss to Byford’s Readimix Taihape at the Country Club last Saturday, Kaierau will delay naming their final 22 until as late as possible to get their walking wounded on the field for the rematch in the semifinal.
“Everyone’s out there to have a real go to be fit this weekend. We’ll give them as much chance as we can,” said coach Carl Gibson, who can’t rule out needing some of the Gemini Pepper Construction Kaierau squad to travel after their Senior semifinal in nearby Hunterville.
After having to revert to Golden Oldies scrums when both hookers and a prop were injured last weekend, Kaierau will have representative player Joe Edwards back, while Jack van Bussel’s bang up leg has recovered enough.
Having played his first Premier game since 2015, Josh Edwards remains in the halfback frame if Cameron Davies can’t front for the whistle, while Ethan Robinson’s hurt back continues to be monitored.
“To get your Heartland players back is the big thing,” said Gibson.
“[The results] go back to zero and we’ll go out as a proud club and leave nothing to wonder.”
While Joe Edwards and Robinson have shared the captaincy this season, Gibson may keep the role with indomitable lock Josh Lane, who took up the banner against last Saturday.
“He leads by example, by what he does, which is the best way.”
The coach admits with player positions being so up in the air, it is difficult to plan their structure and attacking lines.
“We just go back to Ace – he’s the key man there, he’ll just do what he always does.”
A 115-game capped Taranaki and Steelform Whanganui player, club legend Ace Malo has continued to soldier on 39, and with his son Ezra having joined him in the team this year.
Able to play anywhere from halfback to fullback, he has been Kaierau’s guiding light for a decade, including some very lean years, and is respected by all clubs.
“He’s about playing as good as anyone in that team, I thought he was their best player last week,” said Taihape coach Tom Wells.
Wells had the luxury of resting his first-five Dane Whale at the Country Club, so he can be fully ready to rejoin the starting XV alongside his brothers Luke and Ben, and all three Hay-Horton siblings in Hadlee, Slade and Peter-Travis.
Wells has touted prop Hadlee Hay-Horton and utility back Tyler Rogers-Holden as probably his two best players every week, while it was confirmed after the round-robin ended that Ben Whale will receive the Premier MVP award, following an outstanding season at No8 since coming home from England.
“It’s good reward for him, he’ll be pumped for that.”
Looking to get back to Cooks Gardens for the third straight season, Taihape are hosting only their second home Premier semifinal, and with a good crowd expected, Wells will want his in-form side to deliver the goods.
“Just a chance for us to put on a display. Hopefully reward them for travelling with us, since 2016 basically.”