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‘STAUNCH COAST’ – 100 up

111102195814CTPZVJSERUGBY – BARRING injury between now and May 30, Charlie Harrison will celebrate his 100th game for Ngati Porou East Coast when they play Poverty Bay at Rugby Park.

“We’re going to build that game around Charlie’s 100th appearance . . . it’s a fitting game to reach a milestone and one that Charlie richly deserves,” says new Coast coach Willie Waitoa, who has named a 32-man squad to prepare for the game.

“He’s been there through the good times and the bad. He’s staunch Coast.”

Halfback Harrison will join forward Morgan Waitoa (114 games) as the only two players to reach the 100 mark.

Coach Waitoa says that after that, Harrison, like all the players, will have to earn their places in the side.

“He deserves the chance to mark his 100th with a local derby. But he wouldn’t want it any other way (earning the right to pull on the Sky Blues jersey) following this game.

“It’s going to be a huge day and I’m sure Coast fans will turn out in big numbers to honour a player who typifies the spirit that I want to be a big part of our squad this season.

“Sam Parkes has come back to us after playing for the Bay last year and that gives me two of the best halfbacks in the Heartland competition battling for starting spots.”

As well as Parkes, Waitoa has strengthened his squad with the inclusion of Heartland Championship players and Riki Waitoa, former Horowhenua Kapiti No.8 Lennon Carrington, former Poverty Bay prop Jone Lesi (now playing in Rotorua), Donny Mill (who played for the Bay last season) and Richard Apanui of Tauranga club Te Puna.

“Jone and Richard, a first five, are our loan players at this stage, and there may be others,” said Waitoa, who has been a regular visitor to the Coast club games this season.

“I go up every week and often get to take in two games. We haven’t had a squad training session as yet but I’m planning a couple of nights before the game, and then we’ll have a live-in in town the night before the game.”

“The return of Riki Waitoa (Willie’s brother) from the Bay of Plenty and Carrington is a huge boost.”

Carrington, a former Gisborne Boys’ High School and Poverty Bay player, was a standout performer for Horowhenua Kapiti last season.

In Carrington, Tanetoa Parata and Mill, the Coast have a loose trio capable of matching it with the best of them.

Parata’s speed and raw aggression make him a key player. Although only 22, he already has a Meads Cup-winners medal from 2013.

However, last season he spent more time off the field than on it on due to ill-discipline and injuries.

If coach Waitoa can harness that raw aggression Parata could play a major role.

“I’ve known Tanetoa for a long time and he’s good value to the team,” said Willie Waitoa. “He’s still young but has played a lot of Heartland rugby.”

Mill did not get as much time as he would have liked with the Bay last season due to the form of Brent Ingram and Ken Houkamau. When he did play, he showed his class.

– Poverty Bay coach Mutu Ngarimu is expected to name his squad within the next few days.

by John Hill