Suburbs coach Greg Doolan could have been excused for not knowing whether to laugh or cry when the Auckland rugby squad was announced.
Doolan saw two of his players included in Pat Lam’s team for the Air New Zealand Cup while five others have been named in a wider development group.
Their club mentor is delighted to see them make the step up to provincial level but admits to having mixed feelings.
The selection of flying outside backs Watisoni Lotawa and Mikaele Pesamino in the main squad means Suburbs will be without two of their most potent attacking weapons for the Gallaher Shield play-offs.
"It’s been our goal all along to provide a pathway for players to play representative and professional rugby so we couldn’t be happier from that point of view. But they are two quality players and we’ll miss them tremendously."
The loss of Lotawa will be particularly tricky to overcome.
"Wati has been our most lethal player this year because he has such a high work rate and makes stuff happen – he’s a game breaker."
Suburbs will at least still enjoy the services of Pepa Kolomatangi, John Dodd, Simanu Simanu, Masalosalo Tutaia and Fala Sakaria – all included in the 37-man development training group.
A final cut of 26 will be made in mid-August to form the Auckland second 15 squad.
"They all deserve a shot and we won’t lose them for any games which is nice."
Doolan has big wraps on the potential of loose forward Kolomatangi.
"He moved from centre or wing to openside flanker this year and has made an incredible impression. I’m very thankful I’ve got him through the playoffs. After Daniel Braid, I don’t think there’s a better number seven in this province."
Other players with west connections in Lam’s Auckland line-up are veteran Waitemata prop Nick White, Ranui resident Stanley Haukinima and ex-Kelston Boys High student Paea Fa’anunu, fresh from winning the under-20 world cup with New Zealand.
A large bunch of Wai-temata and Waitakere City players have been included in the development squad.
Taione Vea and Tyler Dill-Russell fly the flag for Waitemata while Waitakere provides Sid Smales, Sonny Fa’ata, Sipaia Fonoti, Kyle Nu’uali’itia, Pena Falefa, Saul Luamanuvae and Bell Sasulu.
- Western Leader
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