IT MIGHT be classified as a “friendly” but there will be plenty at stake when an extended Wairarapa-Bush rugby squad takes on Wellington Samoans at Memorial Park, Masterton, on Saturday.
Essentially it will be the last roll of the dice for those involved to cement places in this season’s Heartland championship squad which will be named early next week and which will have its first hit-out in the annual Jeremy David Memorial Trophy match against Poverty Bay in Gisborne on August 15.
“Yes, it’s very much a trial,” Wairarapa-Bush head coach Josh Syms said yesterday. “For the players, a lot is hanging on this one.”
Up front there are obvious concerns over the front row and at lock. The propping ranks have been decimated through the loss of Terry Norman (injured), Jaden Mason (unavailable) and Rei Manaia, the latter a Wellington “import” who came in for the Ranfurly Shield challenge with Hawke’s Bay a few weeks back. He has moved to the South Island. Kurt Simmonds and Jacko Hull would be in the “near certain” category and Matt Kawana now has a royal opportunity to claim a Heartland spot as well.
The big worry at lock is news that Andrew McLean, who made the national Heartland squad last season and has been an outstanding contributor to the Wairarapa-Bush cause over many seasons, is a doubtful starter in 2015. The absence of his lineout and ball running skills would be a huge blow. Without McLean and with the unavailability of Kieran O’Brien, it would be no surprise to see Johnie McFadzean moved from No 8 to join his brother, Lachie, in the middle row although newcomer Laurence Titter, Wiremu Grace and Gareth van Dalen are other options. What happens on Saturday could decide their fate as far as their Heartland aspirations are concerned.
There are many contenders for the loose forward roles. James Goodger would only need to stay fit to be part of that equation but the likes of Brock Price, Kody Thompson, Rima Marurai, BJ Campbell, Liam Devine and Chris Raymond all need big games this weekend if they are to be chosen to go to the next level. Raymond, in particular, is an interesting selection. He is still in his late teens but has been showing such impressive form for Martinborough that he could be one of the “bolters” in the Heartland side.
In the backs, the big question marks hover over the midfield where the unavailability of Michael Te Whare has to be a disappointment. A newcomer getting his chance to make an impact is Andy Humberstone whose club form for Carterton has been solid and other options will include Matt Dalley, Cameron Hayton, Byron Karaitiana and Paul Tikomainavalu. The pacy Greytown youngster Nick Robertson will be challenging for a wing spot after a series of compelling performances for the Tui Cup champions this season. Ryan Saunders, who was on the wing for the Ranfurly Shield challenge, is unavailable for the Heartland campaign.
The full Wairarapa-Bush squad for the Wellington Samoans match is: Kurt Simmonds, Jacko Hull, Andrew McLean, BJ Campbell, James Goodger, Cody Whittaker, Tim Priest, Nick Olson, Corey McFadzean, Tipene Haira, Hamish Forrester, Matt Kawana, Lachie McFadzean, Johnie McFadzean, Brock Price, Byron Karaitiana, Kody Thompson, Gareth van Dalen, Rima Marurai, Liam Devine, Inia Katia, Matt Dalley, Paul Tikomainavalu, Andy Humberstone, Chris Raymond, Nick Robertson, Cameron Hayton, Joseph Sio, Wiremu Grace, Laurence Titter.
By Gary Caffell – Wairarapa Times-Age