It’s not through lack of effort that neither Marist nor Pioneer haven’t managed to lift the coveted Tui Cup in recent years. Could 2017 be any different?
Pioneer reckon they are in good enough shape to give it a crack.
Manager, and co-assistant coach Cheyenne Pakai, says the squad has been training hard since January and it will be a much fitter Pioneer that takes the field when their season kicks off against Carterton on Saturday.
Tough and combative, Pioneer will have a formidable front row led by Wairarapa-Bush prop Matt Kawana. There is a familiarity about the forwards including the Ewe brothers – Nikora and Lee – both strong ball carriers. Look out also for the return of Nathan Rolls later in the season.
Tipi Haira heading south (Martinborough) is a bit of a blow, but Pakai says there is plenty of talent in the backs, among them Tipi’s brother,Himiona Haira. Other key players are Hoani Peacock and Charlie Brown.
Always with a couple of fleet-footed backs Marist is traditionally a side capable of running in tries from anywhere on the paddock. That was certainly a feature of their style of play last year.
But it is perhaps in the forwards where they will be their most dangerous.
New to the side, prop Stan Wright was a rock for Wairarapa-Bush during the Heartland Championship in 2016 and will add not only add muscle to the Marist engine room, but a tonne of experience having played and coached international footy.
In super talented utility forward James Goodger, Marist boasts one of the provinces best players. Last year Goodger was the competition’s top points scorer, not to mention the overall Club Player of the Year.
Throw in players like Liam Devine, Kieran O’Brien, Shannon Rimene – to name a few – it is a formidable looking pack.
While midfielder Michael Te Whare has switched to Greytown, there are still plenty of players in the backs capable of creating mayhem with the ball in hand: Soli Malatai, Leo Eno and Pua Tafa.
Injuries might prevent Marist from starting with their A-team first up, but take the green-machine lightly at your peril.
Marist open their season at against Eketahuna.