East Coast battle for prized Rangiora Keelan Memorial Shield begins
The 16-week quest for East Coast club rugby’s prize — the Rangiora Keelan Memorial Shield — begins tomorrow with four lively clashes to get the heart-rate up from 2.30pm.
The big men of Uawa host Waiapu in Tolaga Bay, Hicks Bay play Tokomaru Bay United at Wharekahika, Hikurangi and Ruatoria City have their derby at Whakarua Park and Tokararangi play 2017 champions Tihirau Victory Club at Te Araroa Domain.
TVC coach Whetu Haerewa, whose men last year beat defending champions Hikurangi 24-21 in extra time to win the Shield for the first time, is a patient man, not one to get carried away for no reason.
But he’s relishing the chance to get a historic club on to the field again.
“We’re enjoying being back together,” Haerewa said.
“Progress has been steady and it’s all coming along. Our four mixed junior teams — one more than last year — have been training for the past five weeks, with our teenage players helping the coaches.
“Over summer, a lot of families came back to visit on the Coast. Stories were shared. There’s a buzz around the place. But if two things stick in my mind from last year, they’d have to be what the win meant to our stalwarts, such as Uncle Winston Waititi, and how gracious Hikurangi were in defeat after the final. We all learned something from that.”
TVC will again be led by second five-eighth Moana Mato, with the front row of Rika Mato, Shane Forsythe and Rawiri Waititi to be joined by fellow forwards Hoani Te Moana, Hirini Delamere, Charles Ngamoki, Manaia Nyman and Solomon Vaka.
Halfback will be Tevita Ahoafi, with Rapata Haerewa at first-five, Ron-Paul McRoberts at centre, William Ford and James O’Brien on the wings and East Coast legend Verdon Bartlett at fullback.
Hikurangi planning to reclaim trophy this season
While coaches on the Coast generally keep their cards close to the chest, Hikurangi’s Doone Harrison is a straight shooter: “Our goal is to win the first round, win the second round, make the top four and win the final,” he said.
“Developing young players, helping new players to be better than they are now and creating quality leaders out of guys who’ve done their time for the club — that’s what we’re doing.
“Losing your last game of the year is something that hangs around until the start of next year, which is now. There’s been plenty of motivation for the boys this week.”
Harrison’s crew tomorrow will include Ngati Porou East Coast representatives Trent Proffit, Kahu Ward and Fabyan Kahaki, club centurion Joe Keelan, senior players Matanuku Parata, Tanetoa Parata and Rhys Walker, and youngster Te Aho Morice.
A derby with City at the site of their epic encounter with TVC will no doubt steel Hikurangi’s resolve. The key phrase is “unfinished business”.
The referees will be Whiti Timutimu for the Uawa v Waiapu game, James Palmer for Hicks Bay v Tokomaru Bay United, Harawira Matahiki for Hikurangi v Ruatoria City, and Stephen Soutar for Tokararangi v TVC.
by Ben O’Brien-Leaf : Gisborne Herald
Published: April 6, 2018 2:53PM