As ever, it is hard to look past the ‘big three’ of Westlake, Rosmini and Westlake when contemplating the possible North Harbour 1A champion.
But the competition itself has increased to eight teams, up one from 2014, which means there will be no byes, a welcome change. Long Bay and Mahurangi, alma mater of the Brooke brothers, are up with the big boys, but the perennial question remains: who will join the vaunted trio in the semifinals? Orewa made good strides in 2014, but Rangitoto and Takapuna Grammar will have something to say about that.
Westlake are the three-time defending champions and have the coveted Woodhouse Shield. This top rugby school is ambitious and has a new coach in director of rugby and former Kiwis league captain Hugh McGahan, assisted by Aaran Katipa.
“We’re not only changing personnel but also the way we are trying to play the game. We’re looking to be a bit more expansive, so it’s about getting their heads around that,” says McGahan.
Rosmini, too, have a new coach – former Manawatu and NZU wing Mark Free – and a new team, with just two back from the 2014 finalists. But the Catholic First XV will be fit, well drilled and well prepared, if not big and seasoned.
Massey will be big and seasoned, and desperate to clinch their first 1A title since 2011. Coach Jono Taura can call on no less than 14 of the class of 2014.
All 1A kickoffs are again at 12 midday, so hard-core rugby fans can get to club footy or 1A games across the bridge.
Massey wing Dorian Viliamu on the attack against Westlake.