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Photo: Shuttersport

Experience up front

With 80-game Mako lock Joe Wheeler returning and nine-year All Black prop Wyatt Crockett lacing up for another year, the forward pack has wily experience but will miss the loss of 92-cap Alex Ainley. He was a “massive part of the Mako and still leading all the fitness tests,” says Andrew. Wheeler’s lineout and general skills as a lock will be a good fit with the enthusiasm and young talents of Pari Pari Parkinson and Quentin Strange. Another big gain is one-game All Black prop Atu Moli, the former Marlborough Boys’ High School star who’s returning home after playing for Waikato. As well as Ainley, other key losses are blockbusting outside back Solomon Alamolo, who’s staying in Chief’s country with Waikato, and Jack Grooby, who came on strongly as the Mako’s number two halfback last year but is out with a serious knee injury. That leaves the door open for back-ups to Finlay Christie, now with plenty of Super Rugby experience. As we went to print, the Mako coaches were wondering who they might lose to the All Blacks for the Investec Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup. Tyrel Lomax, Atu Moli, Shannon Frizell, David Havili and Will Jordan were all possibles, with the call for Liam Squire a near-certainty. Says Goodman: “We’ve got our fingers crossed for the guys to make the team. That’s what we want as a unit, to see guys representing the country. It’s hard for us to lose them but that’s what we’re here for, to provide pathways to the All Blacks. If they don’t make it, we’ll welcome them with open arms.” The Mako coach is excited about new talent coming through the club scene and the Crusaders’ Tasman academy. Goodman isn’t required to travel when the Crusaders head overseas, and he’s been freed by Scott Robertson to come home on weekends off. That’s allowed him to go to club rugby games. He mentions up-and-coming talents like Atu Moli’s younger brother, Above: The Mighty Mako take on the Southland Stags at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim in the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup competition Opposite page: Tasman Mako v Taranaki at Sport Park, Motueka, in the Farah Palmer Cup competition last year 54

“It’s hard for us to lose them but that’s what we’re here for, to provide pathways to the All Blacks.” A N D R EW G O O D M A N

Marist hooker Sam, Waitohi outside back Tuli Paea and New Zealandborn, former Australian schools’ representative first-five Campbell Parata (Waimea Old Boys), “who kicks the ball as far as Marty Banks”. The Mako coach is content with the potential look of a squad rich in Super Rugby experience, and with his co-coaches. “We just want to get the best out of everyone. We want the boys to feel really comfortable to come forward with ideas and really respect the rugby IQ that we have.”

All-round role models

Goodman takes the prevalent New Zealand view that good men off the field will equal good rugby players on it. “I like to think we have a good fun time off the field and work hard for each other on the field. One thing we strive to do is make sure we are connected well with our community in Tasman.” How does he feel about being friends with his players? “I was a little worried about that at first because I had some good friends in the team. Shane Christie would have been one of them – one of my best mates through his Mako years and suddenly I’m coaching. “I wondered how that relationship was going to go but that’s probably something I learnt off Rangi (MacDonald) and Razor. You just be yourself and you can still have friendships. Sometimes you know you’ve got to have that tough conversation with them or your coaching group. “As long as everyone knows that it’s for the betterment of the team, those conversations won’t be hard. You’ve got to get the respect of your group by showing them you do care deeply and you work hard for them. Sometimes our job as coaches is to draw the line and decide what’s best for the team.”

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