Stags and Yellows lock horns for Hankins honours
Regardless of the result of Saturday’s Hankins Shield final, there is going to be a party in Feilding.
Feilding Yellows and Feilding Old Boys-Oroua will line up against each other in the final for the first time since playoffs were introduced for the Hankins Shield in 1980.
The two proud clubs have well deserved their elevation to the big dance having been the form sides in the club competition this year.
Yellows did not lose a game until round 15 of the competition this year and fittingly it was Feilding Old Boys-Oroua who knocked them over.
While the Stags struggled through the middle part of the competition, their turning point came after round 12 when they were thoroughly beaten up 49-12 by College Old Boys in what was easily their worst display of the season.
But whatever magic the coaching staff of Glen Gregory, Paula Maisiri and Murray Stewart and sports psychologist Luke Rowe worked at training that week worked wonders.
The Stags have not lost a match since.
That end of season form has many tipping the Stags to get up in the final over Yellows.
Yellows’ steady play all season has had most clubs considering them beatable, but few have able to pull it off.
With Sean Rankin and Luke Clarke, they have set the standard in the frontrow and have a large pack around them, which helps control games.
The return of Nick Crosswell and recruitment of Hayden Stratford has only strengthened the pack, but they are missing lock Sammy Peasamino (broken leg).
Sam Wasley is their dangerman off the back of the scrum.
The No 8 has a deceptive turn of pace and usually takes multiple players to bring him down.
Their backline has been steady all year, but they will have to adjust to life without playmaker Ben Wyness.
Wyness suffered a broken and dislocated ankle in the semi-final, which will see him side lined for six months to a year.
Andy Williams will take over the duties at No 10, while the need for a goalkicker has seen veteran Brad Carr recalled to the starting XV.
Feilding Old Boys-Oroua have been able to call on speedy outside back Junior Laloifi after he recovered from the leg injury that has seen him side lined for the last four weeks.
Laloifi will line up at fullback in an otherwise unchanged backline.
The forward pack features the returns of Sean Paranihi and George Macpherson to the starting side.
The pair have both come off the bench in the last two matches as they returned from injuries but have been reinstated to tighthead prop and openside flanker respectively.
While all eyes will be on Yellows’ No 8 Wasley, FOB-Oroua’s Alex Hawira has also put in a barnstorming season and is no stranger to the tryline as the competition’s top scoring forward.
FOB-Oroua have the competition’s leading try scorer Ollie Brosnahan on the bench.
In the Val Holland final, College Old Boys and Old Boys-Marist may be missing some of their Turbos contingent who played in Taihape on Friday.
Those who play fewer minutes in the Turbos preseason match may opt to back up for their club side.
And while both of the clubs would like to lift the Val Holland Trophy, the biggest prize between the clubs will be the battle for the Houlihan Cup in the Senior 2 final.
Not much separates the teams and their last match was decided by a penalty try in referee’s time which saw College Old Boys claim bragging rights.
The senior 3 final will also be a hotly contested battle with Kia Toa Kavaliers, who have former Kia Toa senior captain Kingsley Teppett as a player-coach, taking on the Feilding Thunder.
St John’s Wanganui Metro will be the favourites in the colts final against College Old Boys, who upset Feilding in the semi-final last weekend.