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East Coast raring to go

Ngati Porou East Coast cast their rugby net nationwide and dig deep to be competitive

And their head coach, Hosea Gear, will take tomorrow’s clash for the Anaru “Skip” Paenga Memorial Trophy in from his couch on the Sunshine Coast . . . if he’s seated.

The Coast versus the Bay rouses fierce passions, in former All Blacks as much as in anyone else who’s worn either a sky blue or scarlet jersey.

“I’m excited,” the 36-year-old Gear said.

“Our strengths as NPEC lie in each other, as they always have, and who we represent. We have experienced campaigners such as Perrin Manuel and Verdon Bartlett — which will help — but really, for us, it’s about putting everything together. I know our boys will throw the kitchen sink at it, so we just have to try to be smart about what we do.”

Passion, pride and fearlessness are among the Coast’s most well-known, respected and endearing (at times, maddening) qualities.

Tokararangi No.8 and 2019 Heartland 15 representative Hone Haerewa will lead the Sky Blues in his second season as captain.

Despite the Coast’s 85-24 loss to Hawke’s Bay Development last Saturday, Haerewa was impressed by the hearty match-effort of fellow forwards Hirini Delamere and Richard Green at Tremaine Field, and by how well the team trained on Wednesday night at Kahuitara.

The Coast side named last night has seasoned strongman Perrin Manuel at loosehead prop, size in the second row with Netani Seruwaqa and Hoani Te Moana, and a tremendously keen 6-7-8 combination.

Halfback Hamuera Baker played a superb hand for Waiapu this year and, although three weeks have passed since the NPEC club final, the Coast’s inclusion of players of the calibre of Moana Mato among their reserves suggests that their physicality may now be complemented by a good level of fitness.

Gear said: “Our loosies and front-rowers played well against Hawke’s Bay, so they’ve set a standard for themselves that I now expect them to bring to every game. Our backs have had limited opportunities, and so we’d like to see more of them tomorrow.

“Hone is a great leader. I’m really impressed by his attitude, skill level and ability.”

Deputising for Hosea Gear during this Covid-shortened representative season is his assistant coach Morgan Wirepa junior, a born-and-bred Coast rugby man whose knowledge of the players and his people skills make him as indispensable as NPEC manager, former NZ Maori Rugby Board member Val Morrison.

NGATI POROU EAST COAST 1-26: Perrin Manuel, Raniera Whakataka, Hirini Delamere, Netani Seruwaqa, Hoani Te Moana, Richard Green, Trent Proffit, Hone Haerewa (c), Hamuera Baker, Verdon Bartlett, George Sheild, Tutere Waenga, Pamona Samupo, Benny Haerewa, BJ Sidney (vc).

Reserves: Jorian Tangaere, Laman Davies, Riki Waitoa, Kyah Hollis, Moana Mato, Te Aho Morice, Tawhao Stewart, Tahu Walker, Tanetoa Parata, Taleq Simeon, Mahue Dewes.

RUGBY by Ben O’Brien-Leaf
Published September 18, 2020 1:41PM