Wellington rugby league has taken another step into a new era, announcing Kenny O'Brien as coach for the national provincial competition.
O'Brien will coach Wellington in the New Zealand Rugby League's revamped six-team domestic competition in August-September, which replaces the abandoned Bartercard Cup.
University coach O'Brien has a solid coaching record, having landed Petone a Wellington club premiership in 2006 and taken Christchurch club Linwood to a grand final in 2005. He also coached Wellington in the second-tier national provincial competition in 2006 and has co-coached Canterbury with former Kiwis prop Terry Hermannson.
"I don't think the Bartercard Cup captured the hearts and minds in Wellington but I'm hoping we can do that with this team," he said.
"I want the players who want to play for Wellington, not just players thinking, `Oh, yeah, this is a step to the NRL'. People that want to roll up the sleeves and have pride in that jersey.
"We want to foster a bit of history in the minds of the players and spark that desire.
"I think it [Bartercard Cup] alienated people."
Paul Bergman's Orcas team was stacked with 18 and 19-year-olds from his academy but O'Brien offered a representative lifeline to older club players.
"We will pick the best players available, regardless of age," he said.
"We want a good blend of experience and youth so that those young guys coming through have players around them that are good hardened premier players."
He also raised the prospect of reverting to trial games to select his side.
"I think we may have to.
"Whether we look at the old Western Bays v Hutt Valley concept, that's something we need to work with WRL on but I want the best players available."
Brendan Mears will coach the Wellington Under-18 team and former Kiwis skipper Johnny Lomax the Under-16s.
Wellington Rugby League general manager Mark O'Connor, Ken Laban and Jason Carr interviewed nine applicants for the three positions. "It was a tough decision," O'Connor said.
Wellington's three home games are likely to be played at Porirua Park, while the August 31 clash against Taranaki will be shown live on Maori Television.
Meanwhile, North City have had their home games reinstated by the WRL.
Norths, who lead the club competition, were stripped of their home games after touch judge Alan Prentice was punched by a fan in a pre-season game at Ascot Park.
Norths have since bought portable safety barriers and Maori wardens will patrol the touchlines to ensure security for match officials.
Wellington in national provincial competition
Home: v Canterbury, August 24; v Auckland, August 31; v Taranaki, September 7.
Away: v Waikato, September 13; v Bay Of Plenty, September 21.
- The Dominion Post