Old Boys and Maheno fell just short of a place in the Citizens Shield final. Hayden Meikle reflects on their efforts this season.
Played 16, won 12, lost 4.
Pick any week in the first 10, really. Old Boys took the maximum 50 points from those 10 games and were ALMOST looking invincible.
About week 14. Old Boys lost to Maheno that day, slumping to their third loss in four weeks, and it was clear something was not right.
Three best players
1. Anthony Amato. Easily the newcomer of the year. The rangy lock-flanker scored 17 tries and regularly sparked the attack.
2. Filipo Veamatahau. Maybe faded just a tad in recent weeks but the star flanker was magnificent for most of the season.
3. Inoke Naufahu. The halfback just gets the nod ahead of captain Ralph Darling. Naufahu looked fit and confident, which bodes well for the Heartland Championship.
Is the dynasty over? Tempting to ask that question, given Old Boys failed to make the Citizens Shield final for the first time in almost a decade. The club does need to address a few issues. Its depth is anaemic, and an elite team can only succeed for so long with virtually nothing underneath it. But, aside from Darling and Lemi Masoe, most of the best players are still in their 20s. If they hang around, Old Boys can get back to the top easily enough.
“It just wasn’t our day in the semifinal. It feels a bit different not to be in the final. The semis are the hardest games to win sometimes. It’s hard to take. We had a lack of numbers in the middle of the season and we probably went a little bit individualistic. We got a bit stuck in that mode. I suppose everyone else has caught up with us a bit.” – Ralph Darling
Played 16, won 10, lost 6.
Blasting Valley off the park in the last 20 minutes of the game in week 13. That was in the middle of a six-game winning streak to end the regular season, marking Maheno as the form team in the competition.
Losing five out of six in the middle of the season wasn’t fun for Maheno, but probably the semifinal loss will linger the most. The club knew it had a good chance to repeat its fairytale of 2016.
Three best players
1. Hayden Tisdall. The best captain and No 8 in the competition. Hugely popular man who pours his heart and soul into the jersey.
2. Robbie Smith. When the halfback fired, he took Maheno with him.
3. Levi Emery and Llew Johnson. Let’s call this a tie between the two young guns who provided a huge boost to the club when they joined late in the second round.
There is a lot to like about Maheno, which is a reinvigorated club with good people involved, a core of talented young players, and the best lights in the province. Word is the majority of the squad is already keen to talk about plans for 2019. The club must not rest on its laurels, as player depth is not massive.
“From where we started to where we ended, we’re obviously disappointed not to be in the final but really happy to see the development of the team. It was actually quite special. I’ve never gone through a season where we’ve had so many injuries, and a change of coach, and the boys just kept battling away. Their efforts never ceased to amaze me. The club’s in really good shape, and we’ve got good people in behind the scenes.” – Chris Jennings