The premier club rugby season is over for Athletic Marist (fifth) and Excelsior (sixth). Hayden Meikle looks back at where things went wrong – and right – for the two teams that missed the semifinals.
Played 15, won 3, drew 1, lost 11.
A crunching 38-19 win over Valley in round five that suggested this was a team on the rise.
Two VERY low points. A default to Old Boys in round two. Then that shambolic near-default on June 23 when just nine players turned up to play Excelsior, and the game was abandoned with half an hour to play.
Three best players
1. Jared Whitburn. A whopper of a season from a whopper of a man. Dominant, physical and inspirational whenever he was on the park. The club could do with more like him.
2. Taina Tamou. Something of a revelation since arriving from Southland as an unknown quantity. Broke the line at will and showed all of his experience.
3. Junior Fakatoufifita. Last year’s best newcomer started 2018 relatively quietly, but the strapping loose forward has been at his best in recent weeks.
As a club, Athletic Marist needs to do some soul-searching. Player recruitment is going to have to improve, and something has to be done to address the issue of commitment from some players. Turnover tends to be high in club rugby these days, but there are some good players to build around in the next few seasons.
“Disappointing is the word for it. A frustrating season, really. It was a numbers game for us, and we struggled when we got injuries. It’s a shame because we had the firepower to go further. We need to sit down and do some thinking, because we’ve got some youngsters we can build a team around.” – Graham Pitches
Played 15, won 3, lost 12.
No specific moment – though a 42-19 win over Valley in round 14 was proof Excelsior was as good as anyone in the competition. Effectively, the final third of the season was a highlight.
A 53-0 loss to Kurow on opening day wasn’t flash. And after three rounds, Excelsior had conceded 156 points.
Three best players
1. Mat Duff. The ultimate dedicated Blues brother. A heck of a flanker, and a talismanic presence for the entire club.
2. Antonio Misiloi. One of the most promising players in the district. The midfield back can be devastating on his day.
3. Jack Williams. Excelsior has had good service from Englishmen in recent seasons, and this all-action hooker is up there with the best.
Get organised! Excelsior is now a hand-to-mouth club, scrabbling at the start of each season just to field a team. And if that is the club’s major goal, so be it. But the success of the team in recent weeks surely indicates what can be done if player recruitment is sorted a lot earlier.
“You have to start the season strongly. We showed what we were capable of in that last round, once a couple of key players turned up. But the first round set the tone for our season. You have to get points in the bank. We’re a strong, proud rugby club but, like a couple of others, we’ve got some issues around numbers. Something needs to change in the whole competition.” – Dan Keno