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As you read this, Graham Pitches could be sliding into the DMs of the next Patrick Pati.

Pitches, this year’s Athletic Marist coach, contacted Pati via Facebook and enticed him to  play for the club in the Citizens Shield competition.

Pati moved to Oamaru from Auckland, impressed for Athletic Marist, was a key player for Meads Cup champion North Otago and was then selected for the New Zealand Heartland XV for its end of season tour.

Despite Pitches’ scouting success, Athletic Marist had a disappointing 2019 Citizens Shield season, forced to default three games as it struggled to field teams.

But Pitches, who will manage the club’s premier team next year, is ready to rebuild for 2020.

There were more opportunities for players in North Otago than the bigger centres, Pitches said, and he hoped to attract others to play in Oamaru.

‘‘With Patrick doing so well . . . a lot of his mates up north have been messaging me.

‘‘That’s what I keep pushing with these boys from Auckland, you come down here and get an opportunity.

‘‘Up there the boys are just a number.’’

Many of the players who came down for rugby got jobs at Oamaru Meats, but the company’s uncertain future meant other options had to be considered now.

‘‘We always fell back on Lean Meats . . . hopefully they get up and running again and they will need workers.

‘‘But a lot of the guys thinking about coming down already have trades.’’

Pitches is still on the hunt for more players for next year.

‘‘At the moment we have around 34 names on paper, but that doesn’t mean anything — we have 17 confirmed.

‘‘We are ticking along at the moment, props are the big ones, its hard to find props, but I’ll keep stalking.

‘‘We’ll be young but we’ll be competitive.’’

Last season’s Waitaki Boys’ High School First XV coach Wayne Kinzett has been named  as Athletic Marist head coach next year, with Oscar Pamment and Tama Loper as assistant
coaches.

Athletic Marist president Simon Ford said the focus for the club was improving the culture at all levels.

‘‘It’s not just all about rugby, we are getting that family friendly culture going.’’

‘‘We have done a lot of work in the JAB grades in the last few years — we are really keen to see the club as a whole take a step up.

‘‘We want guys to come along and feel like a valued part of the club.’’