`Good things happening’ in rugby

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Green machine . . . Maheno second five-eighth Craig Smith flicks a pass to team-mate Chris Jennings in the tackle of Old Boys halfback Inoke Naufahu during the Citizens Shield club rugby final last year. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN
Green machine . . . Maheno second five-eighth Craig Smith flicks a pass to team-mate Chris Jennings in the tackle of Old Boys halfback Inoke Naufahu during the Citizens Shield club rugby final last year. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN

STATE OF PLAY
“I’m really positive about what’s happening around North Otago. The clubs are doing more recruiting themselves than I’ve seen over the previous 10 years. As a union, we’re just an adjunct, really, in terms of recruitment but we’ve probably been more than that in terms of supplying clubs with players. I’d like to see this as the last year when we have to go out and get players to help clubs. I think the clubs are starting to get their heads around how to recruit, and that’s so important.
“The feedback I’m getting from all clubs is that things are good. There are lots of good things happening.
“Blues have recruited well already. I hear Old Boys are training two or three times a week, and have had 22 at training. And it’s great to see young coaches coming through. Ex-players and current players are wanting to get involved –┬áMike Mavor at Valley, Ralph Darling and Lemi Masoe at Old Boys. That’s a really good sign.
“We saw country rugby really revitalised last season, and let’s hope that continues. It’s great for North Otago rugby to see a club like Maheno up there and challenging again.”

COMBINED COMPETITION
“That’s going nowhere at this stage until we have six B teams.
“There’s a big difference between B teams and president’s grade teams. B teams scrummage, president’s grade don’t. We’ve used president’s grade … it doesn’t matter if you’re 17 or 70 –┬áthere is a game of rugby you can play. I don’t think we’re ready to go away from that.
“We are in discussions with South Canterbury about our winner playing their winner immediately after the club finals, so we’re trying to align so our club seasons finish at the same time.
“We’ve suggested we toss a coin for the first year to see who gets the home game, and then alternate after that.”

OVERSEAS RECRUITMENT
“I’m doing England, Portugal and the United States this year.
“In England, we have three boys playing at the moment. Keegan Anderson and the two Shields boys, Jeremiah and Isaac, are all playing at Olney, the club we have a relationship with. I’m looking forward to catching up with them. And I’m seeing Dan Walker, who is coming back to play for Athies.
“We’ve also got a couple of Scottish players on the go who are good possibilities to come and play club rugby out here. A first five and a lock. I’m meeting with them. I know Maheno are looking for a lock, and a couple of our clubs are looking for 10s.
“I’m going to Portugal because we’ve got Joe Pickett playing there. He’s coming back to Excelsior. And there’s another lad, an English prop, who will come back with Joe to play for Blues.
“I’m actually meeting with USA Rugby. Their chief executive is a friend of mine, so I’m meeting them in Denver. I’d like to try to tap in at the highest level of American rugby, and get involved with their high performance. It would be great for North Otago to be part of that, a bit like we’ve had a good relationship with Canada.
“We have a lock/back-rower out of the Canadian under-18 squad. Looks like he’s going to come out.”

WOMEN’S RUGBY
“Morgan Walker, our Canadian player, she’s stayed here. And when I’m in Denver, I will be catching up with Hannah Stolba and Kirsten Shalosky. It looks like we’ll have three girls coming out of Denver to play for us.
“We’ve got Gina Healey playing over in Holland. She’s at the club I used to coach, and she’s living the dream at the moment.
“It’s going to be good having Kilifi Fangupo and Tai Halalele coaching the women’s team this year. We think they’ll do well.”

HEARTLAND CHAMPIONSHIP
“We keep beating the drum for promotion-relegation in and out of Heartland rugby.
“It’s just a no-brainer for me. It should be automatic.”

Steely Dan . . . Young English first five-eighth Dan Walker will be back with Athletic Marist this season. PHOTO: CASWELL IMAGES
Steely Dan . . . Young English first five-eighth Dan Walker will be back with Athletic Marist this season. PHOTO: CASWELL IMAGES