Feilding Old Boys-Oroua, facing an exodus of their best, can thank their lucky stars they had top colts and B teams last season.
It means the Stags should still be competitive again, despite many of their regulars of past seasons hitting the road.
The FOB-Oroua colts were Manawatu champions and the B team lost their final in extra time to Massey Rams.
The club dispensed with senior coach Potene Paewai at the end of last season and that sparked the departure of some of the players.
Billy Meehan, of boxing fame, was an unexpected appointment as coach. The club has also approached former All Black and Manawatu coach Mark Donaldson to assist Meehan and is in the process of formalising his appointment.
Club manager Dan Lewis said this year had not seen 40 players running around in pre-season, as previously.
Lewis said in his generation you stuck with your club through thick and thin.
"Players tell you something and almost keep you hanging," he said.
"It's going to be a rebuilding year. They're young, eager and with good coaching behind them, you never know."
Unless some players like prop Lucas Puts return, the Stags will be especially weakened up front. The club put Puts through an IRANZ course to the tune of about $7500.
Long-serving veteran prop Daniel Harper has gone back to his old Levin club and the lure of a Ranfurly Shield challenge with Horowhenua-Kapiti. He played in the challenge 20 years ago as a 17-year-old.
The Stags have not yet seen Puts nor former Dannevirke prop Gene Ropoama at training. Other leading players reportedly have gone, either to other clubs, including to Freyberg with Paewai, or elsewhere. They also have not seen Paora Rakatau, Sam Aupouri or Maia Tamati.
Lewis said players roaming about Manawatu clubs would never make a good competition.
He pointed out his club had won the Abraham Cup for overall club supremacy for the past two seasons.
"For some reason there's been a migration of talent away.
"The changes we made we felt were for the betterment of the club and to have the reaction it has had isn't very helpful."
- Manawatu Standard
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