Passionate Feaunati names Cyclones side for Canterbury clash
The Manawatu Cyclones have been forced to make a handful of change ahead of their match against Canterbury in Palmerston North on Sunday.
Coach Fusi Feaunati is missing the likes of Selica Winiata (concussion), Vaine Greig (unavailable) and Sita Kuruyabaki (knee) for the clash with the Farah Plamer Cup table toppers.
But that has not stopped him naming a powerful squad for the match.
Captain Nicole Dickins has shifted to No 8 for the match with Samantha Olsen given a start at flanker alongside Sam Tipene.
Kristina Sue will set the tone in the backline with Corrineke Windle back after a week off at first five-eighth.
Kalyn Takitimu-Cook moves from the wing to centre with Scottish international Megan Gaffney returning to the starting XV.
Feaunati was positive that if his side could stick to their processes, they are capable of knocking over Canterbury.
The second-year Cyclones coach has been a positive driver of the team’s growth in 2018.
He is convinced women’s rugby is on the cusp of a revolution.
It only takes a couple of minutes listening to the passionate Manawatu Cyclones coach to understand why he is so invested in leading a change in perception of the women’s game.
“Women’s rugby is in its infancy and it is about accepting change is real,” he said.
Feaunati has a healthy coaching resume including coaching the Manawatu Development XV, the Manawatu Under 19s and the Kia Toa senior one side.
But now he is all-in on coaching women’s rugby.
Last year was his first in charge of the Cyclones.
He admitted there were some changes he made to his coaching style to suit and he does not shy away from the fact that there are more lessons to be learnt.
He said to change from coaching men to women required you to “appreciate that they are not the same” and to accept that while most men’s players have been playing since they could walk, many women’s players first picked up a rugby ball in their adult years.
One thing that did not change was his honest approach to coaching.
“You may not like what I’m saying to you, but I am still going to say it. There is a lot of sugar-coating issues, but that is just setting players up to fail. It is about giving players the ability to fix the issues.”
It is all part of his focus on raising expectations on the players to help set them up for better futures, whether that be on or off the rugby field.
He said with there way women’s rugby is tracking, there is the potential that some of the squad will be able to make a living off the sport and he wanted his team to be ready should opportunity come knocking.
It is easy for Feaunati to get himself motivated for the charge – it all stems from his personal experience.
Feaunati came through the grades a schoolboy superstar. His parents had coaches banging down their down trying to recruit him.
While he loved playing, he said the only person who did not believe that he could be great was himself.
He said he lacked the coaching and mentoring to inspire him to put in the effort needed to fulfil his potential.
Now he is determined to ensure that the young players he comes across are given the opportunities that he missed out on.
He does by pouring a seemingly endless about of energy and excitement into his work.
The energy comes from getting a second chance at life.
“Three years ago, I had a cardiac arrest in Whanganui. I was dead for 20 minutes. That is what makes me appreciate every day, appreciate opening my eyes every morning.”
With his health sorted, he takes nothing for granted, whether that means his family, his work or his involvement coaching the Cyclones.
The Manawatu Cyclones are holding an open captain’s run in The Square in Palmerston North on Saturday at 2pm.
The side take on Canterbury on Sunday at 2.05pm at Central Energy Trust Arena on Sunday before the Turbos’ match against Wellington at 4.35pm.
Cyclones team to play Canterbury
- Marilyn Live
- Jayme Nuku
- Kahli Tipene
- Mahalia Polson
- Rachael Rakatau
- Samantha Olsen
- Sam Tipene
- Nicole Dickins (c)
- Kristina Sue
- Corrineke Windle
- Lauren Balsillie
- Ruby Finau
- Kalyn Takitimu-Cook
- Megan Gaffney
- Carys Dallinger
- Rikki Rawleigh
- Sequita Hemingway
- Jessica Fagan-Pease
- Shanna Porima
- Lucy Brown
- Nicola Chase
- Sydnee Wilkins