Old Boys, Maheno dominate squad

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Players from the in-form Old Boys and Maheno club sides dominate the first North Otago representative squad of the season.
Coach Barry Stevens has named 17 players to get the ball rolling ahead of the tour of Canada and the Heartland Championship.
Old Boys, chasing a sixth straight Citizens Shield, predictably supplies the biggest contingent _ seven players _ while the inclusion of four Maheno men reflects the country club’s resurgence this season.
Outstanding playmaker Robbie Smith, who is playing first five-eighth in club rugby but may return to halfback for the Old Golds, leads the Maheno brigade.
He is joined by potent centre Adam Johnson and a pair of powerful front-rowers in newcomer Dan Towler and Englishman Robbie Richardson.
Six of the Old Boys names, including the evergreen Ralph Darling and Lemi Masoe, and young guns Inoke Naufahu and Filipo Veamatahau, are familiar, while an intriguing newcomer is rangy English forward Kennet O’Neill.
Excelsior prop Joe Pickett and Kurow loose forward Sam Forsyth are two other new faces to watch.
Stevens, who is based in Dunedin but has watched North Otago rugby every week and also has Jason Forrest acting in a selectorial role, said naming the initial squad was related to the need to start fund-raising for Canada.
“These are guys who we see as fitting into the style of rugby we want to play,” he told the Oamaru Mail.
Seven or eight more players would be added to the squad in the coming weeks, and selectors were keeping an open mind, he said.
Stevens has been impressed with what he has seen from the Citizens Shield clubs so far.
“I think the standard this year is certainly up from last year.”The Old Golds will, as usual, bring in two or three imports for the Heartland Championship, but it is too early to say if any of them will be in place for the Canadian trip.
Among the players to make themselves unavailable were the classy Kurow pairing of Ben Nowell and Rob Verbakel, Stevens said.