Wellington's Orcas swimming in uncharted waters
Today marks a bit of a journey into the unknown for the Wellington Orcas. Just six of last year's team are to play the 2014 representative season, which begins in earnest with the annual Centenary Shield clash against Canterbury.
The Orcas put 50 points on Hawke's Bay in a warmup clash at Hastings a fortnight ago, but the Bulls are a seasoned and talented outfit who'll take a lot more beating.
Contributing to the turnover in personnel was the decision of several Wellington players to try their luck in Australia this year, with others simply not bothering to turn out for anyone. Then there are those on contract with NRL under-20 squads.
Five former age-group Orcas - two with the Warriors and three for Newcastle - played in yesterday's NRL curtain-raiser at Mt Smart Stadium, for example, with a few of today's side looking to graduate to that level themselves.
Wings Denzel Guth and David Saumolia, centre Raymond Lesoa and back-rower Josh Kohika are all still under-20 players and tipped for better things.
Randwick's Lesoa, the Wellington club competition's top tryscorer this season, has already trialled three times for the Warriors and seems destined to crack an NRL club eventually.
Wellington have adopted the policy that developing players for bigger stages is best.
They come to Porirua Park with plenty of familiar faces, such as former New Zealand Residents team forwards Johnny Limmer and Chris Bamford, as well as experienced campaigners like captain Kyle Leka and his brother Kasi. Bruce Havea, another New Zealand Residents player, not so long ago was playing rugby union with All Blacks Luke Romano, George Whitelock, Colin Slade and All Blacks sevens rep Adam Whitelock, at the High School Old Boys club.
The Dominion Post