Exciting Cyclones squad named for 2018 season
A former Commonwealth Games cyclist, a Scottish international and an experienced sevens international are among the new faces in an exciting Manawatu Cyclones team for the 2018 Farah Palmer Cup season.
Coaches Fusi Feaunati and Scott Lewis confirmed their squad for the provincial campaign on Monday with flanker Nicole Dickins, who could register her 50th game for the province this year, and fullback Selica Winiata to co-captain the side.
The province is looking to convert their success on the provincial sevens field, where they have won three of the last five national title, to 15s rugby.
Last year they fell just two competition points short of the top four.
A new women’s model was introduced in Manawatu this season, which had players come under the watch of the union’s resource coaches from the start of the season and playing rugby in teams built for even matches.
Since then Feilding Old Boys-Oroua stormed to victory in a stunning women’s club final, before players took part in a series of Town v Country matches and then Cyclones trials.
The Cyclones promise to have an exciting backline, made even more potent by the addition of Megan Gaffney, who has played 25 tests for Scotland.
The 26-year-old, who has scored six international tries, also played on the Sevens World Series.
Also, in the team for the first time is 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games representative cyclist Steph Mckenzie, who is set to pack down in the frontrow.
Mckenzie placed fourth in the 500m time trial in Glasgow.
She transitioned to rugby in 2017.
Sevens star Vaine Greig, a regular in the national champion Manawatu women’s sevens team, a former New Zealand Sevens representative and Cook Island sevens captain, will add plenty of power to the midfield.
Rachael Rakatau, sister of New Zealand women’s sevens captain Sarah Goss, is also new to the side.
Rakatau has played provincial sevens for the past couple of years and her fitness and workrate have transferred well into 15s rugby.
Maggie Leota, sister of former Turbo Johnny Leota, is set for her debut in the midfield.
Her sister Whanda Leota is battling back from a foot injury.
There are five schoolgirls in the squad, including Feilding High School’s Ashleigh Knight, who played for the side last year.
New Zealand Under 18s Sevens player Kalyn Takitimu-Cook will be joined in the squad by Manukura school-mates Carys Dallinger, Nicola Chase and Lucy Brown.
Former New Zealand league international Sita Kuruyabaki is back after a season off to add some power to the frontrow.
The side is missing three key players from last year in Elizabeth Goulden and Janna Vaughan (both overseas) and Rhiarna Ferris (shoulder injury).
Selica Winiata (co-captain), Nicole Dickins (co-captain), Lucy Brown, Carys Dallinger, Kahli Tipene, Mahalia Polson, Jayme Nuku, Abbey Rivers, Maggie Leota, Ruby Finau, Rachael Rakatau, Megan Gaffney, Marylin Live, Sydnee Wilkins, Sequita Hemingway, Kalyn Takitimu-Cook, Kristina Sue, Sammy Olsen, Shanna Porima, Sita Kuruyabaki, Sam Tipene, Ruci Malanicagi, Steph Mckenzie, Corrineke Windle, Lauren Balsillie, Rikki Rwleigh, Vaine Greig, Jessica Fagan-Pease, Ashleigh Knight, Nicola Chase.
Coach: Fusi Feaunati
Assistant coach: Scott Lewis
Physio: Katie Baker
Video Analyst: Andrew Ball
Manager: Warren Stent
Assistant manager: Marina Canterbury
Manawatu Cyclones draw:
September 1 - Auckland v Manawatu, TBC
September 8 – Counties Manukau v Cyclones, Massey Park, Papakura, 12pm
September 15 – Manawatu v Bay of Plenty, CET Arena, Palmerston North, 1pm
September 23 – Manawatu v Canterbury, CET Arena, Palmerston North, 2.05pm (Turbos-Cyclones double header)
September 29 – Waikato v Manawatu, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, 11.35am
October 6 – Manawatu v Hawke’s Bay, CET Arena, Palmerston North, 1pm
October 13 – Semifinals
October 20 - Final