McDonalds Senior One club rugby ready for launch in 2019
Round one of McDonald’s Manawatu Senior One club rugby gets underway on Saturday with Old Boys-Marist and Feilding Yellows shaping as the match of the week.
The clash sees two teams who faced opposite fortunes in 2018 head-to-head.
Feilding Yellows woke from years of battling out for the Val Holland to be the form team of the competition and falling just two points shy of the Hankins Shield.
OBM, on the other hand, backed up their 2017 championship season with a lacklustre campaign that saw them finish the season sixth.
But both have re-tooled and look likely to feature with the front-runners in 2019.
Feilding Yellows have much of their squad back on deck including the likes of Sean Rankin, Nick Crosswell, Hayden Stratford and veteran Brad Carr.
But this year they also have form Waikato and Taranaki hooker Harry Jones, ex-College Old Boys prop Michael Ioane, former Linton Army standout Leni Tonga and last season’s Feilding High School standouts Josiah Maraku and Drew Wild on deck.
Wild and halfback Griffin Culver will both miss the week one fixture after being called into the Hurricanes Under 20s squad. They are also without first five Ben Wyness, who is expected to be back from his broken ankle, suffered in last year’s semi-finals, mid-way through the first round.
Old Boys-Marist will be hoping their side can stay healthy this year after a 2018 campaign decimated by unavailabilities.
Their key acquisitions are ex-Te Kawau first five eighth James Holland, the return of centre Shadyn Osgood and the return from suspension of talismanic loose forward Rhys Pedersen, who impressed off the field last year with his work raising awareness for Drug Free Sport New Zealand.
They key losses come at lock where they are without both Brad Tucker and Liam Hallam-Eames.
Sam Stewart will get the first crack at the No 10 jersey, a position that was heavily rotated last year.
One to watch will be Matene Ruawai who, if he can stay injury-free, has shown plenty of potential.
Another club to struggle in 2018, College Old Boys, has also built a strong-looking squad for this year.
COB have brought back a pile of their former charges including Damian Horgan, Willie Paia’aua, Cory Purton and Johnny Galloway.
Key men like Gene Syminton, Adam Coll, Jared Goodson, Andrew McDougall, James Tofa and Patrick Tafili-Reid are all back.
While they are missing Karl Bryson, Michael Walsh, who comes to the team from Waikato, shapes as a strong replacement.
They also have Palmerston North Boys’ High School standout Stuart Cruden onboard at first five-eighth.
Cruden will miss week one due to the Hurricanes Under 20s match, as will star outside back Awatere Kiwara, who is trialling for the New Zealand Under 20s.
COB play Linton Army in week one.
The military men have once again faced a hefty turnover, but still managed to call on a solid squad.
Look for the likes of Jaxon Tagavaitau, Hamiora Thomas and Don Hira to carry the load in the backs.
Varsity are sure to be back among the contenders for the Hankins Shield with their quartet of Tufuga brothers – Max, Sam, Kirk and Ueta – and Turbo Hamish Northcott back onboard.
The likes of Cody Hemi, Te Rangatira Waitokia, Mickey Woolliams and Nick Grogan will help strengthen the side as they return from injury during the campaign.
Jayden Falcon, brother of Chiefs first five Tiaan, is one to watch as he looks to bounce back from an -injury-shortened 2018 season.
New recruits include Manawatu academy players Flyn Yates, Bryn Wilson and Atonio Walker-Leawere.
They take on Te Kawau in week one as the Rongotea men look to prove that despite losing plenty of players, that they are still a threat.
This year they will see little of Hurricanes lock Liam Mitchell, so the likes of Te Atuarere Albert and Jackson Scully, who have both spent time in the backline, will need to step up in the loose forwards.
Ethan Woodmass will lead a backline that still offers plenty of firepower with Shaun Lawton-Sue and Jordan Henare, not to mention speedster Adam Boult when he returns from injury in the second round.
Kia Toa head into the season missing a handful of players including injured Turbos Jackson Iose and Sione Asi.
Taumutu Afemui-Nohotima and Tevita Fehoko have both shown plenty of promise in the frontrow but will need to step up a level to give their backline a strong platform from the scrums.
Fraser Stone was a preseason standout, while Atu Henare and Tobias Wickham-Manual are others to keep an eye on.
In the backline is where they have added the most talent with Matt Maoate set to start the season at first five-eighth, covering the departure of Jade Te Rure, and experienced Turbos Michael Tagicakibau and Lifeimi Mafi both in the side.
They take on Freyberg in week one, who will once again be led by work-horse lock Andrew Wood.
Props James Cornelius, Jeremiah Saua and Issac Tupai should leave them in a strong position up front, while halfback Jacob Freeman-Broderick and Iosefa Mataroa have been dependable options in the backline.