Shield squad set to be named
The lure of a Ranfurly Shield rugby challenge on home soil means Mid Canterbury’s coaches are spoiled for choice as they close in on naming their final 2017 squad.
Players returning to their roots, and a few out-of-town players signing on with Mid Canterbury clubs, means co-coaches Craig Dunlea and James Jowsey have had a tough job with huge depth to pick from ahead of the squad’s naming following Saturday’s Watters Cup final.
Mid Canterbury’s had one hitout already, a win over Ellesmere. They’ll play Southland in Waikouaiti on July 29 before the Ranfurly Shield against Canterbury in Ashburton on August 4, then it’s Heartland Championship time.
‘‘There’s some good competition. There’s some new guys in the area that are going to add to it, and some good young guys are stepping up. We’ve got a good mix of experience and youth, and you need that youth as well because it creates energy,’’ Dunlea said.
Dunlea said the squad was almost finalised, but they were keeping an open mind.
Among those eligible to play as a local player this year was influential first-five Jared Percival, who played for Mid Canterbury as a loan player in 2016. After starting the year with Old Boys in Christchurch he has finished the season playing for Celtic. He’s been joined at Celtic by Kurt Polson, who grew up in Mid Canterbury, while Rakaia has also picked up a player from Christchurch in Marist’s Dan Fransen, who has played sevens and colts for Canterbury. Rakaia has also picked up Southbridge’s Willie McGoon, on his return from shoulder surgery.
Waihora’s Jason Kjestrup is also an option, having joined Methven after a stint playing professional rugby in Hong Kong. Methven has also picked up prop Adam Stewart.
To be included in the Mid Canterbury squad as a local player, players had be in the union by the first Friday in June. Dunlea said there had been no shoulder tapping, it had just worked out that all of those players were here and it had been good for club rugby, raising the bar for everyone. No one was guaranteed a spot in the squad; every player had to prove himself, Dunlea said.
Last year he was an import, but having played for Celtic this year, Jared Percival will this year be eligible to play for Mid
Canterbury as a local player.