If ever Har­bour are go­ing to turn their for­tunes around, it could be this year as they have the depth of per­son­nel to be a con­tender.

Har­bour have a dis­mal re­cent record but the ar­rival of Steve Jackson as head coach may fi­nally see them put to­gether some more con­vinc­c­ing per­for­mances. LIAM NAPIER with the story.

NZ Rugby World - - Contents - Coach: St eve Jackson

The Big Pict ure

Let’s start with the pos­i­tives; it can’t get any worse. Over the last four years Har­bour have won eight from 42 games. That’s a truly dire record in any­one’s lan­guage. The good news is they may have fi­nally found a leader. It’s early days, but be­fore a ball has been kicked new head coach Steve Jackson is mak­ing all the right noises.

Jackson, along­side Tana Umaga, helped trans­form Coun­ties Manukau to Pre­mier­ship semi­fi­nal­ists and Ran­furly Shield hold­ers last year. Har­bour are in des­per­ate need of a sim­i­lar in­ter­ven­tion.

They need some­one to crack heads and with an old- school at­ti­tude to­wards for­ward play Jackson could be just the man. For many years the province has strug­gled to form any iden­tity. Flashy backs but no sub­stance else­where.

Jackson wants a much im­proved, ag­gres­sive, phys­i­cal for­ward pack - one Har­bour hasn’t seen for some time – to set the tone. He wants his big men to go places oth­ers won’t. If you’re not up for that, don’t bother. The backs are still there – Bryn Hall, Matt McGa­han, Pita Ahki, Nafi Tuitavake and Te­vita Li form a se­ri­ously lethal back­line. But they’re no good with­out qual­ity pos­ses­sion. Chang­ing per­cep­tions as much as re­sults will be the chal­lenge. The North Shore hasn’t had any rugby to cel­e­brate in re­cent mem­ory. Jackson doesn’t waste time lay­ing down a marker – and you get a sense he’s a man who walks the talk.

Ris­ing St ar

There’s a short­age of qual­ity tight­head props in New Zealand and if Sione Mafileo can keep on top of arthri­tis is­sues which trou­bled him last year, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. Mafileo, a for­mer NZ Un­der 20 prod­uct, spent

Vi­sion State­ment I be­lieve there’s been qual­ity play­ers in Har­bour but be­cause of the po­si­tion they’ve been in the last few years they’ve de­cided to go over the bridge and ply their trade some­where else. I be­lieve we’ve got the tal­ent and this team is good enough. Hope­fully we’re cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment where they want to play for Har­bour and the jersey means some­thing to them. A win­ning team makes ev­ery­body’s job a lot eas­ier. I’ve got a goal to make the semi­fi­nals. It’s not about ro­tat­ing play­ers – we’ll be putting the best team out there ev­ery week. We’re go­ing to have a damn good crack at the Cham­pi­onship. My job is to make the play­ers be­lieve. Head coach Steve Jackson

much of last year on crutches, due to his ill­ness. Re­lapses will be man­aged, but he is said to be mak­ing steady progress and could have a ma­jor im­pact this year. Te­vita Li will be an un­doubted force, and the mo­bile 105kg Bran­don Nansen, who can slot in at lock and blind­side flanker, is another with un­tapped po­ten­tial.

Old Dog

He’s only 22, but Bryn Hall is very much a leader. Struck down with ill­ness and a bro­ken jaw last sea­son, the col­lected half­back grasped his chance this year. An in­flu­en­tial fig­ure in the Blues’ cam­paign, Hall will form a key link be­tween the backs and for­wards – his guid­ing pres­ence will need to be con­sis­tent for Har­bour to achieve their goals. Hay­den Triggs and James Par­sons are two fur­ther ex­pe­ri­enced op­er­a­tors. Hav­ing such cool heads at hooker and lock will be vi­tal in close matches. Whether he re­cov­ers from his con­cus­sion bat­tles or not, Ben Afeaki will play a men­tor­ing role on or off the field.

New Ar­rivals

Fran­cis Saili is the only ma­jor loss - the for­mer All Blacks sec­ond five- eighth has re­joined his big brother back over the bridge with Auck­land. First- five James Sem­ple is one of a num­ber of play­ers let go. While 16 re­turn from last year to form the core of the squad, at least 10 fresh faces will don the Har­bour jersey this year. That sig­nals a ma­jor cleanout and, per­haps, the start of a new era. Triggs is a qual­ity sign­ing at this level and in­ter­est will cen­tre on pivot Matt McGa­han, who re­turns from a stint with the Mel­bourne Storm.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.