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Coast set for big day out

Tomorrow will be a big day out on the Coast.

Enterprise Cars Ngati Porou East Coast club rugby kicks off at 2.30pm. Rangiora Keelan Memorial Shield champions Tokararangi play away to Hikurangi at Kahuitara, Uawa visit Hicks Bay at Kawakawa mai Tawhiti and Tokomaru Bay United host Tihirau Victory Club at Hatea-a-Rangi. Ruatoria City have the bye.

The Kath McLean Memorial Cup will encompass the first seven rounds of competition, the prize for the seven weeks from May 5 being the Jury Harrison Memorial Cup.

There will follow 1 v 4 and 2 v 3 semifinals on July 10 and the final on July 17. NPEC head coach Hosea Gear plans to be back from Queensland and on the Coast come May to take in the club rugby action in the Sky Blue union’s 100th year, ahead of the Heartland representative season.

The 2019 NPEC MVP (most valuable player) and captain, openside flanker and Tokararangi skipper Hone Haerewa, leads a Te Araroa-based outfit itching for action under player-coach Israel Brown.

“The boys are biting at the bit to get out and have a run after training for about two and a half months,” said Haerewa, who will again count among his opposing captains lock Scott Lasenby of Uawa, whose Tolaga Bay crew won the big one in 2018 and 2019, and second-five-cum-openside flanker Mo Mato of 2017 champions TVC.

“It’ll be good to see where we’re at and put all the training to good use this weekend,” Haerewa said.

Vastly experienced coach Whetu Haerewa is again at the helm for TVC. For Hicks Bay, Aaron King returns as coach. He and long-time manager and former NPEC chairman Graeme Summersby are as influential off the field as their co-captains Frank Taiapa and Shaun Murtagh are on it.

All four men played a role in nurturing the side that lost 45-5 to Tokararangi at Te Araroa Domain in last season’s opening game, were pipped 25-24 by Waiapu at George Nepia Memorial Park, and beat mighty Hikurangi 21-19 at Kahuitara on August 1.

To beat The Maunga on their patch by two points would be a highlight of any East Coast club’s season, considering too the large margins of victory for TVC (73 points), Uawa (56) and Tokararangi (40) in Round 1 of last year’s shortened season.

Coaching Hikurangi this season will be 2020 East Coast final referee Matt Richards, while Kuru Gray will mentor Tokomaru Bay United and Chris Richardson will be in charge of Uawa.

Richardson has been one of the big blue club’s best performers from halfback out over the years. Sam Parkes, likewise an aggressive No.9, will start tomorrow with another key player, giant scrum-anchor Laman Davies, nestling in place with Maia Fox at loosehead prop and Murray Yates as the rake.

NPEC chief executive Cushla Tangaere-Manuel said: “All things considered, we had a great season last year, and operating under Covid-19 guidelines, we were thrilled with the response from our communities in terms of facilitating rugby.

“We’re proud of the fact that our clubs now incorporate women’s teams. They have a trip to Nelson to play Tasman on July 10.

“It’ll be good to see old and new faces for the next 16 weeks, and players wanting to earn a blue jersey in our 100th year.”

Community rugby manager LeRoy Kururangi will referee United v TVC, Jackson Reuben-Swinton is in charge of Hicks Bay v Uawa and Eruera Kawhia has Hikurangi v Tokararangi.

“It’s exciting to have Ruatoria City back, with Lisa Muller as coach,” Kururangi said.

“They have their 100th anniversary as a club in 2022, and the clubs have done hard yards preparing for this season.

“The referees can’t wait to get out there but you can never have too many refs. Blowing the whistle is a way of giving back, and for those older players who may have taken a knock or two over the years, it’s a great way to stay in the game.”

by Ben O’Brien-Leaf
Published March 26, 2021 12:23PM