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npec2Ngati Porou East Coast’s new coach has simple advice for aspiring Heartland players.

NGATI Porou East Coast’s new coach Whetu Haerewa says preparation is paramount to a successful season.

“Individual and team preparation is one of the keys to a winning team,” said the 42-year-old Te Kaha-based policeman, who headed off eight other applicants for the position vacated by Ngarimu Simpkins.

“I’ve got a meeting with Cushla (Tangaere-Manuel, Coast chief executive officer) on Friday to see if a review of last season has been done and then my priority will be speaking to players and emphasizing the importance of preparation.

“The Heartland Championship is a long way off (August) but the players need to start putting in the hard yards now and continue it through the club season . . . not wait until the representative games begin.

“I’ve spoken to a couple of players who were involved last year, Morgan Wirepa junior and Verdon Bartlett, but I’ll have a better idea of where we’re at after Friday’s meeting.”

Haerewa, born at Hicks Bay but with “whanau all over the Coast”, said being based at Te Kaha would not be a problem once the Heartland Championship started.

“I’m lucky that in my job I can get leave of absence. Again it’s all about preparation and having been involved with the Coast as a player and assistant coach I have first-hand knowledge about the amount of traveling involved for our players.

“It’s part and parcel of Coast rugby and our culture which bonds us together.”

Haewera wore the Sky Blues jersey as a midfield back and played his club rugby for Hicks Bay and TVC on the Coast. In 1996 he played for Horouta in the Poverty Bay competition and made the Bay side coached by Paul Tocker.

He was also Coast coach Joe McClutchie’s assistant in 1998 before leaving with his family for Queensland.

“I coached rugby league age-group teams at the Logan Brothers club, having played league when I was in Wellington before joining the Queensland police in 2002.

His family returned to New Zealand in 2005 and lived in Rotorua.

“I got a job as a schoolteacher before rejoining the police in 2008,” said Haerewa, who has achieved multiple coaching credentials in rugby and league.

While most of his coaching has been at the age-group level, he does not see stepping up to Heartland inter-provincial level as a problem.

“I’ve been coaching all my life and even though most of it has been with age-group teams, the game is about getting the basics right. That doesn’t matter if you’re a young player coming through or a senior player, it’s all about the basics.

“I want my senior players to be role models, not only on the field but off it. Part of my job will be improving the new players who come in as players and men.

“This is an opportunity for young Coast players and, initially, local club players will get first crack.

“I have recently been involved with TVC and they have five or six young players with the potential to step up

“If I have to look outside the Coast competition then I’ll look for players who whakapapa to the Coast. It is a Ngati Porou team and we have a culture and identity that is unique to New Zealand.”

Tangaere-Manuel said the fact that nine coaches were interested in the position was a huge boost to the union.

“We had six locals (New Zealanders) apply, one from Fiji, who impressed us with the research he had done on us, one from Spain and one from England.

“Interviewing the man from Spain was a first for us as we did the interview via video, but he wanted too much to come here.

“While all the applicants had merit, in the end Whetu was the obvious choice, with his background and knowledge of our culture, and now we look forward to another exciting season.”

Gisborne Herald