Norths build on strong foundation
There’s growing talk of vying for a spot in Wellington club rugby’s Jubilee Cup after a strong start to the rugby season for the Norths.
Captained by 80-game veteran Fala Tuala, the Northern United Rugby Football Club premier team won their first four games in round 1 of the 2017 Swindale Shield competition, putting them first-equal at the top of the table with Old Boys-University as of early April.
Before the weekend’s match, when they lost to Tawa 24-17, manager Mike Parker said the team was aiming to build a strong foundation with depth in the ranks, ‘‘to give us the best possible chances for success in the later rounds of the Swindale Shield, and hopefully into the Jubilee Cup’’.
‘‘This has been a great start to the season, however there is still a long way to go with a further nine games remaining in round one,’’ Parker said.
‘‘The premier team’s goal is to secure a place in the Jubilee Cup round, and we are taking each game week by week and on its merits.’’
Though the team had lost a couple of key players, such as Jackson Garden-Bachop to the Melbourne Rebels and Daniel Reuelu Buchanan to work in Auckland, the team has brought in promising new blood with premier debutants such as Quaid Martin-Laumatia, Tana Salzmann, Sagato Nafatali and Esi Komaisavai.
Norths have also acquired openside flanker Antony Fox from Waikanae RFC, who was last year part of the Horowhenua Kapiti Heartland Rep side.
Parker said there were exciting prospects from the likes of Callum Watt-Pointer from Wellington College and Parke Williams from Porirua College along with Norm Fatialofa and Milli Nafatali from Rongotai College who are playing for the Colts or Premier Reserve Grades.
From Japan; fullback Takehiro Nakazawa of the Black Rams is with the team for round 1 ‘‘and of course we are delighted to see the return of Leon Ellison, back home to Norths, after several seasons in Japan and most recently playing for the Japan 7s side’’.
Meanwhile, Chris Middleton will add an ‘‘enormous amount of professionalism and experience to the forwards’’ after returning from Australia where he has been competing in an international surf boat series for Titahi Bay.
Norths’ Perry Hayman tries to break through with Wellington player Callum Harkin on him.