Dragons hope to roar again
Ta’au Savaiinaea says it’s time to turn things around.
The new St George Dragons premier rugby league coach can’t wait to unleash his team for the new season on Saturday.
Last year’s reserves coach, Savaiinaea said he was keen to repay the faith in him of a club he had been involved with since he was 9.
The Dragons reserves lost in the semi-finals last year, and the club’s premiers barely fired a shot all season.
It’s been a similar story for many years at premier level, but Savaiinaea has quiet confidence.
‘‘We are a young team and we’re fit,’’ he said. ‘‘ We’ve done well in two pre-season games.
‘‘What it comes down to is consistency, players understanding their role on the field and sticking to the game plan. We’re going to surprise a few people this year.’’
Savaiinaea said a balance of uncompromising forwards and hard-working backs should keep them competitive.
He is looking at centre and skipper Tala Eni to lead the way and vice-captain Takua Saa, in the forwards, to be Eni’s back-up.
‘‘These two have great leadership skills to lead our mix of old and young heads, like Vasa Kaiau and Sopi Lualua, who are just 18.’’He said winning games at premier level could lead to a positive mentality that would seep through all the senior ranks.
Reserve grade players would have the opportunity to push for premier spots as the season progresses, he said.
Peter Rikiriki, coach of the Porirua Vikings premiers, meanwhile, said numbers at the club had been a bit down at pre- season training owing to players’ heavy involvement in summer sport.
‘‘A lot of the guys are involved in tag football at national level, so that’s taking up time,’’ he said.‘‘We’ll be fine for the start of the season, don’t worry about that.’’
After a disappointing 2014, Rikiriki said turning fortunes around important.
He said several new faces would be present for the first game, because key halfback Anton Wereta and other regulars had departed.
The experience of Greig Dean and Lolo Etimani would be key, and Rikiriki said under17 players like Tristan Davis, Jayden McCarthy, Luke Cummings and Patrick Ahnau would get their shot.
‘‘These guys will play premier football and prove themselves – it’s exciting for them and for the club to see these boys show what they’ve got.
‘‘The talent is there for us to really push for another premiership. There’s a good feeling in the squad, different from past seasons.’’
Rikiriki said the Vikings were likely to play a more skilful game than in the past, using speed and agility to get past the opposition, rather than through them. That would come to the fore when they play some of their games on turf this season.
Savaiinaea and Rikiriki picked University, Randwick and Te Aroha as the teams to beat this year.
St George take on Petone at McEwan Park and the Vikings play Upper Hutt at Whakatiki St on Saturday. Both games kick off at 2.30pm.
Greig Dean will be leading the way for Porirua Vikings yet again this season.