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The kids are alright: Celtic look to future

By Jared Smith

After over a decade searching for that elusive Tasman Tanning Senior championship, Ali Arc-TD Brick & Blocks Marist Celtic’s veterans have stepped aside for the ‘young guns’ of the club to take their shot.

Finalists and/or semifinalists for several seasons, but running into quality sides like Kelso Hunterville and Harvey Round Motors Ratana when the silverware was all-but in their grasp, Celtic are now looking to find their way in the latest competition format – making the Top 3 of the Town division to qualify for the Championship group.

And that means going through their brethren the Marist Buffalos in the club derby this Saturday.

“It’s always a good game against the Buffalos – it’s what we call our State of Origin,” said coach Duane Brown.

With Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist on the bye in the Premier division, it is likely the free-styling Buffalos could add a few returnees from the top level.

“It’s definitely a game to win – we need to win, and that leaves us with Counties, who on their day can cause an upset,” said Brown of their last two games before the Top 6/Bottom 6 split.

Ironically, Celtic are now using the Buffalos previous formula of looking for young players, rather than Premier veterans stepping down from top grade.

With former Steelform Whanganui captain Steelie Koro stepping out of the starting lineup, but acting as backline coach, his recent time involved in schoolboys rugby has unearthed some real prospects.

Lads who started together in touch rugby many years ago are now the young adults Celtic want to rebuild around.

“Our backline, if you take away Steelie, if he’s available for the bench, we’ve so many young fellas available, come out of that high school [rugby],” said Brown.

“These kids are all mates, and mates follow mates.”

Petera Koro is following the family tradition, while halfback Cleveland Nicholson has come over from the Wanganui Pirates club.

A slightly older Kelly Houlthan was a draw-card for players, with the likes of Tyson Memaena and Trey Hawira (formally Counties) donning the green and white.

“It’s definitely the kind of future we want for Celtic,” said Brown.

Celtic started strongly with a 41-19 win over Black Bull Liquor Pirates in the Spriggens Derby, but a week later just didn’t fire against a strong Gemini Pepper Construction Kaierau, losing 40-10 at the Country Club.

“Any team can win it. It’s been a while [for Kaierau],” said Brown.

The team was able to rebound in confidence under lights at Dallison Park last Friday with a big 61-0 win over Border, leaving them in third spot in the race for the Top 3.

The draw is

Senior (1pm kickoffs unless noted, times subject to change):

Town

Counties vs Border, MacNab Domain; Celtic vs Buffalos, Racecourse No1; Pirates vs Kaierau, Spriggens Park.

Country

Taihape vs Ruapehu, Memorial Park No 1; Utiku Old Boys vs Hunterville, Memorial Park No 2; Ratana vs Marton, Ratana Pa.