Magpie Clarke on trial to stand in for Cruden

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 12:00 02/05/2012
Aayden Clarke
FAIRFAX NZ
Aayden Clarke is to wear the yellow and black of Feilding Yellows with Turbos coach Jason O'Halloran expected to keep a close eye on his performance.

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Hawke's Bay first five-eighth Aayden Clarke will be wearing the yellow and black of Feilding Yellows against Old Boys-Marist in club rugby on Saturday.

He is to be appraised by Manawatu coach Jason O'Halloran as a prospective recruit for the Turbos' ITM Cup team.

With the likelihood that Aaron Cruden will be with the All Blacks this year, Manawatu need another No10 as well as Varsity's Isaac Thompson.

Clarke, aged 30 and 92kg, has scored 124 points in 44 games for the Magpies from 2000 to 2009 and has always been deadly accurate with his goal-kicking when playing Manawatu.

Originally from Wairoa and now back playing for Napier Pirates, he has also been in Japan with the Kintetsu Liners under coach Peter Sloane for the past two seasons.

Hawke's Bay appear well served with five-eighths like Andrew Horrell and New Zealand under-20 player Ihaia West, so there's no certainty Clarke would be picked.

"His agent promoted him to us," O'Halloran explained.

"I am pretty keen to stick with locals, but we are pretty short at 10.

"We do have a bunch of youngsters who are not quite ready."

Thompson's injured shoulder has yet to be tested in combat because obtaining his clearance from his club in Spain has been a shambles. He hopes to be cleared to play Te Kawau at Rongotea on Saturday.

O'Halloran played in Japan and knows how much pressure comes on the import players to perform, so isn't worried about Clarke's readiness to play at provincial level, even at the age of 30.

While O'Halloran will give local players the first chance to fill vacancies, he is also mindful of continuing to have a winning team to pull the fans through the turnstiles.

He said having the Turbos winning last year made the signing of players this year so much easier, and it helped in keeping local talent in the province.

There is also interest in Te Kawau's former New Zealand Sevens representative George Tilsley, but he is commuting from his bank job in Wellington and needs work in Palmerston North.

The Turbos also expect to lose utility Junior Tomasi Cama for the last three games this year because of NZ Sevens commitments.

Cama and DJ Forbes are likely to be the first fully contracted NZ Sevens players and out of Manawatu contention from next season.

However, second five-eighth Scott Curry will not be wearing the green and white this season after all, nor the double blue of Kia Toa.

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The NZ Sevens player is to have a shoulder reconstruction.

He was contracted by Manawatu in November on a one-year deal and while it is understood he was not on a big contract, Manawatu will still have to pay him for the rest of the season.

That is similar to what happened last year with Upper Hutt's five-eighth Brett Pigott, who didn't get to play for the Turbos because of injury, but still had to be paid.

- Manawatu Standard

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