Dragons hope to roar again

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By KRIS DANDO

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.

Photo: FAIR­FAX

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.

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