Tough game first up

Bay want to hit the ground running

Bay want to hit the ground running

RELISHING A CHALLENGE: Poverty Bay captain Ken Houkamau carts the ball forward in a pre-season match against Hawke’s Bay Saracens last weekend. Poverty Bay’s Heartland Championship season opener is against the 2018 Meads Cup champions, Thames Valley, at Paeroa on Saturday. Picture by Paul Rickard

POVERTY Bay have a tough early draw in the Heartland Championship but captain Ken Houkamau says the province’s rugby team are not intimidated.

They play the Meads Cup champions, Thames Valley, first up and then the 2018 beaten finalists, South Canterbury, and Houkamau is relishing the challenge.

“We’ve got to hit the ground running,” he said.

New coach Tom Cairns has given players plenty of time to absorb plans and patterns and the team should have enough firepower to worry their opponents.

Some pieces of the personnel puzzle haven’t been easy to put together for Poverty Bay but their pre-season has been comprehensive enough to allay first-round jitters.

On Saturday, they will charge out to play the Swampfoxes at Paeroa, and Houkamau is excited.

“We can make a statement on Saturday.”

He is buoyed by their showing against Hawke’s Bay Saracens at Rugby Park last weekend. They lost 33-29 but the result could have gone either way.

“It was a positive hit-out,” he said.

“We won large periods of the game.”

Houkamau is quietly confident they can put together a successful season.

For the 33-year-old Ngati Porou Seafoods operations manager, that means results on the park, but also getting the team culture right and bringing the community along for the ride.

Houkamau said it was important for the team to have a true connection with the region.

The Poverty Bay Rugby Football Union put an emphasis on local talent this year. Loan players will not be used but players raised in the region — players of origin — are in the mix.

Houkamau said competition for places in the team was hot.

“There’s so much talent, and all local talent.”

The new regime has also turned up the heat on player fitness.

“Our trainer Jamie Swift has been taking the boys through some pretty gruelling sessions,” Houkamau said.

The importance of fitness became clear during the club rugby season.

OBM coach Trevor Crosby is well known for his focus on fitness and his team could not be matched in the playoffs.

Houkamau said OBM were not just the best team, but the fittest team.

He said Poverty Bay had let leads slip in the past and better fitness should put a stop to that.

Houkamau said players had bought into what Cairns, backs coach Miah Nikora and team management were trying to achieve.

A player leadership group — Houkamau, Kelvin Smith, Tamanui Hill, Mark Atkins, Adrian Wyrill, Campbell Chrisp, Willy Grogan and Mario Counsell — helped share the load.

What it all means is that — despite a few players apparently falling by the wayside during the season — the core of the team should be ready for Saturday’s assignment.

Houkamau said little separated most of the teams in the championship.

The standard of the competition had improved over the years, he said, but it was also fun.

“I get to travel around with a good bunch of blokes and represent the region.

“We do it for love and it’s still an enjoyable thing to be a part of.”

POVERTY Bay have a tough early draw in the Heartland Championship but captain Ken Houkamau says the province’s rugby team are not intimidated.

They play the Meads Cup champions, Thames Valley, first up and then the 2018 beaten finalists, South Canterbury, and Houkamau is relishing the challenge.

“We’ve got to hit the ground running,” he said.

New coach Tom Cairns has given players plenty of time to absorb plans and patterns and the team should have enough firepower to worry their opponents.

Some pieces of the personnel puzzle haven’t been easy to put together for Poverty Bay but their pre-season has been comprehensive enough to allay first-round jitters.

On Saturday, they will charge out to play the Swampfoxes at Paeroa, and Houkamau is excited.

“We can make a statement on Saturday.”

He is buoyed by their showing against Hawke’s Bay Saracens at Rugby Park last weekend. They lost 33-29 but the result could have gone either way.

“It was a positive hit-out,” he said.

“We won large periods of the game.”

Houkamau is quietly confident they can put together a successful season.

For the 33-year-old Ngati Porou Seafoods operations manager, that means results on the park, but also getting the team culture right and bringing the community along for the ride.

Houkamau said it was important for the team to have a true connection with the region.

The Poverty Bay Rugby Football Union put an emphasis on local talent this year. Loan players will not be used but players raised in the region — players of origin — are in the mix.

Houkamau said competition for places in the team was hot.

“There’s so much talent, and all local talent.”

The new regime has also turned up the heat on player fitness.

“Our trainer Jamie Swift has been taking the boys through some pretty gruelling sessions,” Houkamau said.

The importance of fitness became clear during the club rugby season.

OBM coach Trevor Crosby is well known for his focus on fitness and his team could not be matched in the playoffs.

Houkamau said OBM were not just the best team, but the fittest team.

He said Poverty Bay had let leads slip in the past and better fitness should put a stop to that.

Houkamau said players had bought into what Cairns, backs coach Miah Nikora and team management were trying to achieve.

A player leadership group — Houkamau, Kelvin Smith, Tamanui Hill, Mark Atkins, Adrian Wyrill, Campbell Chrisp, Willy Grogan and Mario Counsell — helped share the load.

What it all means is that — despite a few players apparently falling by the wayside during the season — the core of the team should be ready for Saturday’s assignment.

Houkamau said little separated most of the teams in the championship.

The standard of the competition had improved over the years, he said, but it was also fun.

“I get to travel around with a good bunch of blokes and represent the region.

“We do it for love and it’s still an enjoyable thing to be a part of.”

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