Billy steps into a new ring
In one of the more left-field appointments made in Manawatu club rugby, former New Zealand boxing coach Billy Meehan will coach the Feilding Old Boys-Oroua senior team next season.
Meehan's arrival has seen the departure of one of last season's coaches, Potene Paewai, to Freyberg where he takes over from Tasi Tuhana.
Meehan was approached by the FOB-Oroua Stags and took a while to consider it. After talking it over with wife Cathy, he accepted.
And when Meehan met the players recently, he got in first with the question on everyone's lips: "What does Billy Meehan the boxing coach know about rugby?
"There are definitely some finer technical points I need to study; what coach doesn't do that?" asked Meehan.
"I am aware it's going to be interesting and a challenge, but a coach is a coach," said the 50-year-old. "I have coached every year of my life since I was 24 years of age, when I was still boxing.
"I'm a true blue Kiwi boy. I love my rugby, always have."
After 250 fights and nine national titles, he had two years as the trainer with the Varsity team and seven years with Oroua, as well as a lot of representative level school-age coaching. Son Jacob played senior rugby for Marist.
Billy is a father of eight, aged between 10 and 24, and still runs Meehan's Boxing Gym. Besides being a Palmerston North city councillor from the Takaro ward, he lectures in sport at Te Wananga o Aotearoa.
Ian Pfefferle, who coached the Stags' colts team to the championship in his third year as coach, was appointed as Meehan's assistant, as the man with the rugby knowledge. But he resigned last Monday after he felt he couldn't work with Meehan. That disappointed Meehan: "Ian had a lot to offer."
The Stags are looking for a backs coach.
As club manager, Dan Lewis said it had been "a tumultuous off-season". "Billy impressed us with his passion and enthusiasm," Lewis said. "He has a strong disciplinary background.
"The board decided the players weren't performing to their capabilities and we felt the biggest weakness last year was in and around structure and discipline within the team."
They felt the laissez-faire attitude contributed to the team finishing fifth by a long way, and too many players (46) were used, along with transitory rugby league players.
Now it seems Paewai's switch could bite the Stags because Turbos utility Lewis Marshall and senior No 8 Sam Aupouri are likely to follow Paewai to Freyberg.
He coached both players at Hato Paora College and upwards of five Stags, mostly Hato Paora players Paewai took to the Stags, are likely to go to Freyberg.
Paewai said he wasn't about to give up coaching when FOB-Oroua turned down his application.
"They said they wanted to head in a new direction. They didn't have any other reasons for wanting to let me go."
His assistant will be former Feilding Yellows man Greg Allan.
Meehan's last word: "At the end of the day, champions aren't bought; they're made".