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Rugby’s Luisetti Seeds Combined Country Cup Division 1 Competition 32 Ashburton Guardian

Friday, March 29, 2019

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Celtic Celtic may be heading into the 2019 rugby season as the defending Mid Canterbury Rugby champions, but they know they’ll have a job on their hands to defend that title. Coach Shane Enright said of the 25 players who made up the squad which lifted the Watters Cup aloft for the first time in many years last season, 14 had not returned for the 2019 season. Celtic had lost 10 backs and four forwards from last year’s squad, and all for a variety of reasons. Some were overseas, some were injured or simply unavailable, and others had decided to chance their arm up in the Christchurch Metro competition. For a coach, it wasn’t an ideal scenario. He had just 16 fit players at the start of this week ahead of their opening match of the combined country cup competition against Prebbleton at Celtic, and the start of the season at least was going to be a real juggling act with the seniors having to rely on help from players in the club’s B and colts sides. It was going to be a challenge, but Enright was still confident – you had to be, he said. “The goal is always to win the Luisetti Cup and the Watters Cup, and we’re not going out to defend the Watters Cup, we’re going out there to win it,” Enright said. They knew they’d have their work cut out for them, but the players who would form the team known as the ‘green machine’ this season were not lacking in determination. They wanted to do their best, and hopefully retain Mid Canterbury Rugby’s biggest prize at the end of the season. “We’ll be turning up every week and we’ll try our best, and if our best is good enough then that’s great, and if it’s not we’ll reassemble or reassess,” Enright said. Celtic started the season down 14 players from 2018, and the list has just kept growing. Ryan Greenslade – a new player who had come to Celtic after three years with the Timaru Boys’ High School first XV – broke his ankle in the final minute of their first pre-season game against Geraldine, and in their most recent pre-season clash on Saturday against Mackenzie, they lost Alex Hooper to a dislocated shoulder. The list went on – one player had required finger surgery, another had ruptured his achilles, and one had his feet run over in a car park, the most unusual cause on the walking wounded list. Enright said Celtic did have experience and they’d be relying heavily on the likes

Shepherd Mhembere is embarking on his second season as a big part of the Celtic forward pack.

of Hamish Finnie, Angus Lindsay, Shepherd Mhembere, Nick McKain and Uma Tu’uga in the forwards, while Paovale Sofai would go from one of the young guns in the backline in 2018, to one of the more experienced players in a youthful looking backline in 2019. Enright said it was just one of those things – players came and went. This year Celtic had just had a lot go, and not a lot of new blood coming in. Last year’s captain Danny Hurley wasn’t playing this year in order to spend time with his young family, while last year’s firstfive Nathan McCloy was overseas, as was Kirk Chettleburgh. Willie Hintz was out due

to a few too many concussions, while Matt Miller was not playing in order to focus on his new business, and Scotsman Owen Gemmell had returned to his homeland and any plans of returning had been halted by a torn hamstring. Two of Celtic’s standout backs last year had decided to try their luck in the Christchurch Metro competition – Brian Matoramusha had gone to Lincoln University, while Isireli Masiwini had gone to High School Old Boys, as had Celtic’s hooker from last year, Joel Leo. Celtic’s pool C draw is: March 30: v Prebbleton

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The Celtic squad is : Hamish Finnie, Keanu Huria, Mitchell Coyle, Sheridan Hawkins, Mark Tait, Leauma Tu’uga, Alex Hooper, Sam Baynes, Nic McKain, Gus Lindsay, Shepherd Mhembere, Davey Morrison, Henry Miller, Jayden Faunge, Kody Stuthridge, Paovale Sofai, Sean Strange, Lima Senternia, Cam Butler.

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Rugby’s Luisetti Seeds Combined Country Cup Division 1 Competition Friday, March 29, 2019

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Ashburton Guardian 33

Hampstead Hampstead’s senior rugby side finished the 2018 season in a better head space than they’d arguably been in for many seasons. Now, the key for coaches Shaun Bovey and Craig Dwyer was working out how to ensure that their players started the season with their heads back in that same sort of confident space. It had now been 10 years since Hampstead last won a game in Mid Canterbury’s local competition, the Watters Cup, but last year they came agonisingly close. They led both Rakaia and Methven with only a minute left on the clock, only for a try with time up to snatch that long-awaited win out from under their noses. It hurt then, and it still hurt now, but those losses had driven Hampstead to work harder and smarter ahead of the 2019 season. They started training earlier than most clubs, and due to the fact that a lot of their players were on night shift, had been holding training three times a week in the lead-up to the season – Tuesday and Thursday nights, and Saturday afternoons. Bovey said Hampstead had good numbers on paper this year, but it hadn’t been easy getting them all together at the same time, and in their pre-season matches it showed. But, one thing that always showed in Hampstead’s performances, was their passion, desire and drive. Bovey said Hampstead wasn’t expecting to go out there and win every game this season, but if they could pick up the odd one they’d be happy. “Obviously we want to do well in the Luisetti Cup, but in reality we are using the Luisetti as a building platform as we did last year, to hit the Watters Cup as hard as we can,” Bovey said. But, if they could pick up a couple of wins early in the combined competition, they knew that they could potentially be in the mix and finish far higher than they had in recent seasons. Over the past few years Hampstead had picked up some Luisetti wins, mainly in the latter stages when they found themselves playing off against teams in a similar position to them, but wins in the local competition – the Watters Cup – had eluded them. This year, they were determined to change that. “It’s not just to win a game. We want to be in the play-offs in the Watters Cup. Just two minutes in two different games last year, it would have been a different story,” Bovey said. But that would come later. First, they had the combined competition to think

Ao Touli will be one of two Touli brothers in this year’s Hampstead senior rugby team.

about, and they had a new leadership team in place to take them through. Lofi Lapa would captain the side, with Petelo Milo, Kennedy Faalavaau and Ioane Kasiano set to form the side’s leadership group. “We are pretty hopeful. We think that we have got a reasonably favourable draw in the sense that we don’t really have a lot of travel to do, obviously we have got last year’s champions Waihora in there, but if you put that aside we’ve really only got Kaiapoi and Hornby as our biggest away trips,” Bovey said. When you had a team made up predominantly of meat workers, many of whom were on night shift and also working Saturday mornings, it made life hard when it came to filling seats on the bus for away games, as well as getting the whole group together to train as one. Bovey said they might only get a dozen or so players at their Tuesday and Thursday night trainings, but they’d been getting up to 50 players to Saturday trainings. That was also a good sign for the club’s B team, which had to pull out part-way through their com-

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petition in 2018 due to a lack of numbers. The senior squad was simply aiming to take things one game at a time. “We’ve got our targets set and we believe that we can beat over half of the others in our pool, it’s just about getting the boys functioning the way we want them to,” Bovey said. It was about getting them in the right head space. They needed to start the season with their heads up, because it was hard to bring heads back up when they were down. Facing Darfield in game one tomorrow – a team usually there or thereabouts at the business end of the competition – Bovey said his side would take to the field full of hope, respect and confidence. There was no other way to be. They were missing a few key players from last year, with some like Taufa Touli having gone to the Christchurch Metro competition to try their luck. He was one of four Touli brothers Hampstead had been hoping to have the services of this year, but another – Elama Touli, who made the Cru-

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sader Knights last year – was also playing in Christchurch, leaving just Romeo Touli and Ao Touli wearing the blue and gold of Hampstead. Bovey said Hampstead’s strength this season would be their ability to carry the ball strongly, and their always solid defence. But they needed to be more intelligent with what they did with the ball when they had it in hand. He said Hampstead needed to start this season the way they finished the last one. “You don’t need to dig that far down to find that passion,” Bovey said. Hampstead’s pool A draw is: March 30: v Darfield April 6: v Burnham-Dunsendel-Irwell April 13: v Ashley April 20: v Southern April 27: v Kaiapoi May 4: v Waihora May 11: v Hornby Hampstead’s squad was not available in time for printing.

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Rugby’s Luisetti Seeds Combined Country Cup Division 1 Competition 34 Ashburton Guardian

Friday, March 29, 2019

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Southern Southern won a fair chunk of their games on the rugby field last year, but in the ones that really mattered, they failed to fire. This year, that would not be the case, coach Andrew Carr said. Southern just missed out in the combined competition finals last year, and then lost Mid Canterbury Rugby’s Watters Cup final to Celtic, and they were still hurting from both. That meant there was no shortage of determination in the ranks and the side coached by Carr, Geoff Frew and Mike Spence was excited about what the season ahead held. It was set to be a big one for Southern, being their jubilee year, and Carr said that added to the pressure to perform. Their build-up hadn’t been ideal, though. A couple of teams pulling out of planned fixtures left Southern with just one pre-season game, which they lost last Friday night to Pleasant Point under the lights at Hinds. “It should’ve been our last hit-out instead of our first, so we are probably a week or two behind where we should be,” Carr said. With some players unavailable for that game, it meant Southern had not been able to have a run as a full team ahead of their season opener against Burnham-Dunsandel-Irwell tomorrow. But, the biggest things on Southern’s side heading into the season, were their numbers, depth and experience.

Will Mackenzie has been a permanent fixture at halfback for Southern in recent seasons, and this year he’ll be joined by his brother Hamish.  PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN

Among the most experienced set to lace up their boots for another season were Jon Dampney, James Carr and Scott Vessey, who was returning to seniors after a couple of years with the Bs. “Between the three of them they all play loose forward, so that’s pretty experienced,” Carr said. They’d also picked up another handy loose forward in the form of Finn Cleary, who played senior B for Mt Somers last season and made Mid Canterbury’s initial

Heartland Championship squad, while Atu Takubu – a centre/wing who played sevens for Mid Canterbury last season – had also come on board. Southern had a few players from overseas on their books last season and while they hadn’t returned, they had secured the services of some new international players. Carr said they had American winger Brian Hazel who played in North Otago last year and was part of the North Otago Heartland squad, and Iain Taua, a

New Zealand-born Samoan who played schoolboy rugby for Australia and was a Melbourne Rebels age group player. Among the side’s new homegrown players were the brothers of two existing players – Matt McAtamney who had switched to Southern from Mackenzie, and would be joining his brother Josh McAtamney, while Hamish Mackenzie was re-joining the side which had featured his brother Will Mackenzie at halfback for a number of seasons. Carr said Hamish Mackenzie would be

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Rugby’s Luisetti Seeds Combined Country Cup Division 1 Competition Friday, March 29, 2019

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Ashburton Guardian 35

March 30: v Burnham-Dunsandel-Irwell April 6: v Ashley April 13: v Waihora April 20: v Hampstead April 27: v Darfield May 4: v Hornby May 11: v Kaiapoi Southern’s squad is: Aaron Chudleigh, Brad Tarbotton, Angus McKenzie, Ben Naylor, Adam Williamson, Scott Murphy, Eric Duff, Logan Bonnington, Scott Martin, Caleb Harrington, Hamish Mackenzie, Finn Cleary, Jon Dampney, Scott Vessey, Will Mackenzie, Jake Pariama, Richard Fridd, James Hastings, Hamish McCulloch, Iain Taua, Josh McAtamney, Atu Takubu, Dean Malcolm, Bryan Hazel, Gideon Lambrechts, Joe Raratabu, Daniel McAtamney, Matt McAtamney, Nick Gilbert.

Southern jubilee The evergreen Jon Dampney is set to turn out for Southern again in 2019. 

a player to watch; an openside flanker, he was also more than capable in the backs, and that versatility was a huge bonus. They still had a few players under injury clouds from last year, including James Carr, Scott Martin, James Hastings and Aaron Chudleigh, who injured his knee in last year’s Watters Cup final loss to Celtic. It was hoped they’d slowly trickle back on to the field in the opening few weeks. Carr said the 2018 season was a tough one for Southern. They played well, but didn’t get the rewards. “I was pretty proud of the style of footy

we played last year. We scored a lot of good tries, and a lot of them were out wide, which wasn’t like Southern,” Carr said. “We won the fair majority of our games, we just didn’t win the right ones.” It came down to mental toughness, and getting the job done when it really mattered, and Carr and his crew were determined to do things differently this year. Their build up might not have been ideal, but Southern had the numbers and the talent to go places. It was just a matter of whether they could put it together on the park.

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“There’s a bit of youth there and obviously a lot of experience, so we will take a week or two to probably get into gear, but hopefully we can get a couple of Ws early,” Carr said. Their first up opposition was Burnham-Dunsandel-Irwell, in Hinds, tomorrow. “We’ll be taking it week by week. You play these teams enough times to know who their key players are, so we’ve got a rough idea what to expect, but personnel do change,” Carr said. Southern’s pool A draw is:

Southern Rugby Club celebrates 25 years in May. Jubilee celebrations on May 10 and 11 will mark the occasion, with the official opening of the extended clubrooms and club day, with teams across the grades turning out at Hinds. Southern was an amalgamation of the Hinds and Mayfield Rugby clubs and the two districts have existed harmoniously since 1994. A special commemorative playing strip will be worn by the senior side for the jubilee weekend match and the jerseys will later be auctioned. The club wants players who have turned out for Southern over the years to register for the celebration.


Rugby’s Luisetti Seeds Combined Country Cup Division 1 Competition 36 Ashburton Guardian

METHVEN

Friday, March 29, 2019

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Methven There weren’t many country rugby clubs around that could lay claim to having an international player on their playing roster, but Methven could. For the third season in a row, they have the services of Finnish player Kalle Valimaki for 2019, but when Methven run out onto the field for their opening match of the combined country competition on Saturday against Southbridge, Valimaki wouldn’t be there. That was because he would instead be in Vienna, turning out for his native Finland against Austria. While they’d miss him on the field tomorrow, the Methven Rugby Club was immensely proud of the powerful Finnish forward – so much so that there was talk of putting his photo on the clubrooms wall. Methven’s new assistant coach Jason Kjestrup said his side was in a good place heading into the competition. They had a good sized, fit squad, and a pre-season win over Prebbleton had given the side a lot of confidence. Sheds Shelters Commercial Rural For the past two seasons, Kjestrup had been a vital part of the squad on the field, but this year he’d decided it was time to 100% New Zealand! take what he’d learnt from the many coaches he’d had over the years, and give back. Designed/Engineered/Owned. “It was just time to let the body have a rest, it’s taken a fair bit of a battering,” NZ Suppliers! KjestrupTrustworthy said. Kjestrup played for Waihora when he Reputable, reliable & long-established. was at university, and played for Hamilton Marist after moving to the Waikato. There,

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he made the Waikato wider training squad for the Mitre 10 Cup, before receiving an offer to play professionally offshore, in Hong Kong. He returned from Hong Kong two years ago and put his roots down in Mid Canterbury. Last year, he was one of three first-fives on Methven’s playing roster, but a shoulder injury he sustained and a neck injury to Davey Maw left just Reuben Early to wear the 10 jersey. This season, it was just Early again, with Kjestrup’s role likely to be limited to the coaching side of things, and Maw’s neck injury also keeping him on the sideline. But there was plenty of experience around him. Halfback Tyler Blackburn was now one of the side’s senior players, and Methven’s backline had also been boosted by the acquisition of former Rakaia player, Nete Caucau this year. He would don the number 12 jersey and Oscar Baisagale was likely to play at centre. Kjestrup said Baisagale was told if he wanted to play in the midfield, he needed STEEL to work on his ballBUILDINGS skills, and he had done that. Kjestrup said he had been the side’s with and played 80 minutes at big improver centre in Methven’s pre-seasonRural game. Sheds Shelters final Commercial Methven hadn’t lost a lot of players this season but they hadZealand! picked up a couple of 100% New new faces, and a couple of old faces. Designed/Engineered/Owned. After a couple of seasons of not much STEEL BUILDINGS Trustworthy NZ Suppliers! rugby, former Tasman player Brenton Conreliable & long-established. nell wasReputable, set to play in the Methven seniors

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Methven’s squad is: Alipete Polutele, Brenton Connell, Campbell Sommerville, Charles Suyker, Faaitu Tuamoheloa, Hamish Allen, Hugh Griffiths, James McLeod, Jarad Maguire, Jason Kjestrup, Jeremy Lewthwaite, Kalle Valimaki, Luke Gilbert, Matt Stone, Matthew Groom, Matthew Liszt, Michael Gilbert, Mitchell Pannett, Oscar Baisagale, Reuben Early, Nete Caucau, Sairusi Turuva, Samuel Luscombe, Simon Fleetwood, Tait Chisman, Thomas Suyker, Timothy Lawn, Tyler Blackburn, Taylor Watkins.

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Rugby’s Luisetti Seeds Combined Country Cup Division 1 Competition Friday, March 29, 2019

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Ashburton Guardian 37

Rakaia When the opening whistle sounds on Rakaia’s first rugby game of the season against Glenmark tomorrow, it will signal the start of a new era for the club’s senior side. The side had spent years under the watchful coaching eye of Wayne Foxcroft, and his departure at the end of the end of the 2018 season left some pretty big boots to fill. Taking on that challenge was Kyle Gray, who joined last year’s co-coach Terry Murray to form a new coaching duo that they hoped would help take Rakaia far. They knew the pressure was on. Rakaia has been one of Mid Canterbury’s most consistent performers in the Luisetti Seeds Combined Country Cup competition in recent years. But, over the past couple of seasons it had been a case of so close, yet so far. In 2017 they made the final but lost to Southbridge in a heartbreaker, and they had a chance at redemption last year, making the final against Waihora. But again, they lost. Getting so close, but not quite finishing it off, hurt. And while they’d love to get another shot at the title, Gray and his team weren’t getting too far ahead of themselves. They didn’t have a goal to make the top four, or the final. They were just taking things one week, and one game, at a time. “We’ve probably got more internal goals at this stage. We are just looking to build a good team environment,” Gray said. Rakaia had lost a couple of key players from their backline at the end of 2018. Nete

Caucau had moved from Rakaia to Methven, while Tom Hanham-Carter was set to try his luck in the Christchurch Metro competition. There had been rumours during the off-season that Rakaia loose forward Seta Koroitamana may have also been on the move, but he had returned to Rakaia and would again be a vital link in their forward pack with his strong ball carrying ability. Gray said Rakaia was doing alright for numbers, but they weren’t turning prospective new players away. They’d lost players, but hadn’t welcomed many new ones in, and hooker Jackson Donlan – the captain of Mid Canterbury’s Heartland Championship side – was set to miss the opening few weeks of the season as he was away on his big OE. Gray was no stranger to rugby in Rakaia – it was only a handful of years since he last pulled on his boots and took to the field in the blue jersey. But his playing days were well and truly done, Gray said. He started his playing career for Darfield but had lived in Rakaia for the past 15 years, and after switching allegiances to the Rakaia Rugby Club went on to play 100 games for his new club. A hooker, Gray’s last official game for the Rakaia seniors was in 2015. A couple of players he played alongside were still in the side, and a lot of the younger ones had played under him as a coach. Gray started coaching with the

combined Rakaia/Methven colts side when it began in 2016, and had coached them for the past three seasons before taking on the seniors role. It was a role that he knew would be a step up and a challenge, but he was looking forward to sinking his teeth into it – hopefully starting with a win in tomorrow’s first round. Gray said Rakaia had planned on having two pre-season games heading into the combined competition, but with games cancelled the weekend immediately following the recent terror attack in Christchurch, they only ended up with one. That game was against Temuka on Saturday, and while they didn’t win, pre-season games weren’t about winning. They were a chance to test things out before the competition got under way. “A lot of things have changed so we were hoping to get some clarity and understanding around some of our new systems, and we probably half achieved that,” Gray said. It was hoped the other half of the plan would fall into place with some hard work this week, so Rakaia could start the season the way they hoped it would continue. Rakaia’s pool B draw is: March 30: v Glenmark-Cheviot April 6: v Rolleston April 13: v Springston April 20: v Methven

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Andrew Letham is a senior member of the Rakaia backline. PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN

April 27: v Oxford May 4: v Ohoka May 11: v Southbridge Rakaia’s squad is: Jackson Donlan, Tom Heywood, Ese Jr Fakatoka, Luke Leahoki Biko, Henry Millar Todd Boag, Cory Sinclair, Tom Innes, Matt Bentley, Ata Ata Langi Langi, Doug Rushton, Paul Kingston, Harry Ashworth, George Denis, Harvey Blyth, Thomas Blyth, Tim Hanrahan, Andrew Letham, Setariki Koroitamana, Iromi Dawai, Kieran Hardy, Tim Nalotu, Angus Mackenzie, Logan Fleet, Moa Tuionetoa.

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