Mitchell steps into Matenga breach

Bryan Matenga has stepped down from coaching the Te Kawau senior rugby side and will be succeeded by his former team-mate, Alistair Mitchell.

Matenga has left the job of his own volition for family and work reasons after what was often a controversial two years.

He had intended coaching for a third season but near Christmas he wavered, with a young family and dairy farm to run, and called on Mitchell to move up from two years coaching the Te Kawau colts.

"I would never have stood against him because he's a mate," Mitchell said.

Both men played for Te Kawau and Manawatu. Matenga also coached the Manawatu under-20s for the past two seasons.

His forte with Te Kawau was in recruiting players from outside the Manawatu union. He stressed he did not poach players from other Manawatu clubs and those like Frankie Bryant and Tepasu Thomas went to Rongotea of their own accords.

While many in Rongotea lamented the few Te Kawau-bred players in the seniors, Matenga's teams were successful. But he personally took it hard when they lost the 2011 final to Varsity deep into injury time and lost last year's semifinal against Varsity after extra time.

"When you're wanting excellence out of all your players, it takes its toll when you don't win," he said.

After the season he felt he needed a bit of space.

"It will feel funny not to be getting ready for rugby. I have never been away from rugby since I started playing; then I went straight into coaching."

Matenga has a wife and three young children, 150 cows to milk and all week was taken up with rugby.

He did much of his rugby thinking when milking the cows.

"Not much work gets done during the rugby season."

He hasn't ruled out standing for the Manawatu under-20 coaching position again.

Since Mitchell was confirmed last week, he has been checking to see which players will be back. One unlikely is the first-five from Canterbury, Logan Taylor.

Mitchell has had long links with Te Kawau Saturday-morning rugby so knows of school leavers he would like to get back in the green and black, and some of his colts.

"I'll attempt to get more back into the Te Kawau side of things, but there's no point getting thrashed by 90 or 100 points."

Matenga did have Te Kawau playing free-ranging rugby, even if his Fijian imports were difficult to programme. And Mitchell said Te Kawau would not return to the old 10-man rugby ways.

Having served on the club committee for the past two seasons, he has never known of incentives being dished out to players to join the club.

Manawatu Standard