McDonalds Hankins Shield set to roar into action
Feilding Yellows are chasing the elusive three-peat.
Heading into the season the Nathan Williams-coached side will be hot favourites with a strong core of returning players.
But they will see little of Josiah Maraku due to his commitments with the Blues.
Reigning Hankins Shield Best and Fairest winner TK Howden will be key up front. But the likes of Sam Wasley, Harry Jones, Tietie Tuimauga and Hayden Stratford will also be important contributors.
In the backs, Griffin Culver, Drew Wild and Ben Wyness will be the key to their attack.
Once again, Brad Carr will line up in the back three with the veteran continuing defy Father Time and still turning on some impressive footy at the age of 39, his 23rd season at Senior One.
Te Kawau will be hoping to find consistent form this season after a couple of seasons of slow starts.
With new coaches Chris Long, Wesley Clarke and Jacob Meehan, it is a new era for the lads from Rongotea.
They are missing a key contributor from recent seasons with Sam Stewart now is Christchurch. As always, Liam Mitchell’s appearances will be limited.
But they still have a handful of the Linton Army players like Harry Black, Jimmy Berghan and Dominic Broadhead. They have also picked up Old Boys-Marist duo Josh Greer and Benedict Grant.
Their players to watch out for will be flanker Jason Myers, midfielder Kameli Kuruyabaki, utility Te Atuarere Albert and Turbos wing Adam Boult.
Feilding Old Boys-Ōroua have also turned to new coaches this year with Dave Ellis and Jeremy Cotter.
FOB-Ōroua have been through some lean years since their Hankins Shield title in 2018.
But they have a solid core in Jamie Perigo, Amon Panikoula, Alex Hawira, Keilan Henry, Stefan Williams and Shaq Waara. Poara Rakatau is also returning from injury.
Academy players Moape Rokosuka and Faleseu Tauailoto will add some spark to the backline and their will be interest in how Hamish Clapcott, a former Canterbury Under 20s midfielder, looks in the Manawatū competition.
Freyberg’s recruitment drive is starting to show positive signs that they might finally have a core that catapult them off the bottom of the table.
The first week will be tough due to Hurricanes Under 20 commitments, but that the price of building through young talent.
Involved in the Hurricanes Under 20s are Darius Mafileo, Raymond Tuputupu, Joseph Gavigan and Feleti Sae-Taufo’ou, all front rowers, along with outside back Chance Malu.
They have picked up promising flanker Michael Halatuituia from Varsity with the openside to co-captain the team with halfback Potene Rolls-Paewai. Midfielder Lawrence Liuvaie and halfback Jacob Freeman-Broaderick were named as vice captains.
Lifeimi Mafi and Kahn Fotuali’i may also don the club colours at some point which will be a key gain.
Kingi Matenga will be hoping to unlock College Old Boys’ backline this season.
With Stewart Cruden running the cutter and James Tofa remaining one of the deadliest attacking weapons in club rugby. Throw in the likes of Awatere Kiwara, Cyrus Baker, Patrick Tafili-Reid and Andrew McDougall, along with Palmerston North Boys’ High School standout Lafo Takiari-Ah Ching and they are looking dangerous.
But it is up front where teams will look to put COB under pressure, so they will need big seasons from Johnny Galloway, Te Anini Pardoe and Jared Goodson.
Perennial bridesmaids Varsity will be chomping at the bit to convert their promising seasons into Hankins Shield glory.
The Sky Blues came within inches of the title last season after a stunning comeback in the final only to be relegated to their second consecutive runner’s up tag.
Lessons from the last two finals will serve coaches Scott Lewis and Blair van Stipriaan and their senior players well.
But their 2021 title chances have been dealt a hammer blow with three major exits from their team in the form of joint top points-scorer Jayden Falcon along with the competition’s top try scorer Korie Winters and the dangerous Te Rangatira Waitokia.
For Varsity, that means they will need the likes of TamaToa Ropati, Ueta Tufuga and Hamish Northcott to come to the fore on attack.
Up front they have picked up Ben Strang at hooker with fellow hookers Flynn Yates and Nick Grogan set to pack down at prop. Look out for Atonio Walker-Leawere who made big impacts in the limited games he played last season.
Lock Micaiah Torrance-Read, flanker Dylan Hall and lock/ flanker Julian Goerke will be others to watch.
Kia Toa look poised to push hard for the Hankins Shield in 2021.
The double blues have a good split of experience and youth in the side, if they can handle the battle up front.
Promising hooker Sase Va’a will have to wait until May to get back on the field.
Brayden Iose’s game time will be limited through his Hurricanes commitments, but Ofa Tauatavalu is a rising star worth watching.
Powerful wing Rudi Sifa is one to watch with another and will be better after another season under his belt.
Te Atawahi Mason will be worth keeping an eye on at first five-eighth while Atutahi Henare and Trent Reti offer good service at halfback.
Leighton Ralph, Tevita Henare-Schuster, Mackenzie Tansley and Taare Ferris are others who should be key contributors.
Consistency will be key for Old Boys-Marist who will start the season juggling injuries.
With Rhys Pedersen now on the coaching staff, Matene Ruawai will be key to the loose forward rotation as will Liam Giltrap if he can battle past his injury issues. Up front, Bryn Gordon is a rising talent and Malachi Nukunuku will grow as the season progresses.
Halfback Aidan Champion is showing promising signs and will battle Hunter Waller for game time. Champion, Blair Hannam and Sam Stewart will compete for starting minutes at first five-eighth.
Cam Black, Max Harris and Shadyn Osgood all played big roles last season and Ben Werthmuller will be a key weapon when he returns from injury.No video selected.