Club sides bolstered with star players

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 12:36 01/03/2013

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Wellington's 12 premier rugby clubs have received boosts with the allocation of 18 Hurricanes players from outside the province.

However, the actual worth of the new-found stars remains to be seen.

At first glance the arrival of prop Ben Franks and fullback Andre Taylor to Northern United should make the Porirua-based club Swindale Shield and Jubilee Cup favourites.

Likewise, Wainuiomata's hopes soar on face value at the acquisition of Taranaki first five eighth Beauden Barrett and lock Jason Eaton.

The reality is Poneke, with Northland halfback Samisoni Fisilau look to be the biggest winner.

That's because the 18 Hurricanes involved do not have to play for their new Wellington clubs.

Those from Manawatu (two), Hawke's Bay (five) and Taranaki (eight) can opt to drive or fly home to play club rugby when not required for Super Rugby duties.

It is less likely Fisilau, who will be vying with TJ Perenara and Chris Smylie for game time with the Hurricanes, will head back to Whangarei for the odd club match, than Manawatu flanker Callum Gibbons driving to Palmerston North.

Likewise, Reynold Lee-Lo may find it easier for him to pull on a Marist St Pats jersey than head home to Counties Manukau.

The most often available players are likely to be wider training group players Gibbins, Ope Peleseuma (Taranaki), and the Hawke's Bay trio of Richard Buckman, Mike Coman, and Ash Dixon.

With 37 contracted players in total this season there is the potential for up to 15 Hurricanes to need game time each weekend.

Non-All Blacks could also be available to clubs during the June test window during which Super Rugby takes an enforced break.

Whatever the case, The Wellington Rugby Union has done the right thing in allocating outside players to a local club before the Swindale Shield kicks off.

WRU manager of amateur rugby Will Caccia-Birch hoped it would provide transparency and clarity to clubs and players.

"It's an allocation that only has potential to happen. Most of them might choose to play for their own province," he said. "But we had one or two last year who almost on the day said, 'I need to play and play for a club', and we were really scrambling."

That could occur if a player was on stand-by for injuries til game day, but found out on the morning they would not be required, he said.

"It's also a reflection of the changing landscape with the wider training group guys who used to come in then disappear back to their provinces. Now those guys are essentially based here in Wellington for the season."

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The decision on which clubs players went to was made by a five-man panel made up of club representatives Kevin Pulley and Alan Woods, Wellington Lions coach Chris Boyd, Hurricanes manager Tony Ward and Caccia Birch.

* The WRU would not supply the lists of allocations, but The Dominion Post has obtained a copy as follows.

Wainuiomata: Beauden Barrett, Jason Eaton (both Taranaki). Rimutaka: James Broadhurst (Taranaki), Callum Gibbins (Manawatu). Petone: Richard Buckman, Mike Coman (both Hawke's Bay). Wests: Ash Dixon (Hawke's Bay), Ben May (Nelson). Poneke: Samisoni Fisilau (Northland). Norths: Ben Franks (Hawke's Bay), Andre Taylor (Taranaki). Ories: Jack Lam (Waikato). MSP: Reynold Lee-Lo (Counties-Manukau). HOBM: Karl Lowe (Hawke's Bay), Ope Peleseuma (Taranaki). OBU: Chris Smylie (Taranaki). Upper Hutt: Blade Thomson (Taranaki). Tawa: James Marshall (Taranaki) Japan-based Tusi Pisi does not appear on the list.

- The Dominion Post

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