Clubs battle high turnover ahead of assault on 2017 Manawatu senior A season

Varsity won the senior A title in 2016 after beating Kia Toa 18-17 in the final.
Murray Wilson/ Fairfax NZ.

Varsity won the senior A title in 2016 after beating Kia Toa 18-17 in the final.

VARSITY

2016: Hankins Shield champions. 2015: Semifinalists.

Coaches: Scott Lewis, Daz Horsley

Main gains: Matt Hathaway (Rams), Mickey Wooliams (Rams), Rhodes Featherston (Rams), Nathan Tweedy (FOBO), Te Rangatira Waitokia (Wanganui), Jack van Bussel, Thomas Kalin (Rams), Jarrod Harawira (Wellington), Scott Davidson (Overseas), Conor McLean (Rams)

Main losses: Rob Foreman (retired), Ryan Hathaway, Saia Teumohenga (Tonga), Mitchell Hancock, Richard Rosewarne, Clayton Stewart (overseas)

Main men back: Sam Healy, Nick Birchfield, Nick Grogan, Tom Hughes, Hamish Northcott, Kirk Tufuga, Max Tufuga, Sam Tufuga, Willie Cribb, Reece Brosnan, Jamie Booth, Alex Murray, Ian Burmeister, Ueta Tufuga, Sam Malcolm, Robin Praat, Doug Juszczyk, Kallum Whitehead.

Super Rugby: Nehe Milner-Skudder (Hurricanes), Callum Gibbins (Hurricanes)

Prediction: Finalists. A strong squad with good depth and plenty of belief after winning the title last year, they have competition favourites written all over them.

The promotion of Rams coach Lewis is a positive with plenty of his former charges stepping up to the top level.

Last year's Heartland Rugby player of the year Waitokia will be worth keeping an eye on with the Turbos needing outside backs.

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COLLEGE OLD BOYS

2016: Semifinalists, 2015: Hankins Shield champions

Coach: Sonny Waqatairewa

Main gains: Patrick Tafili-Reid (Feilding), Jamie Karatea (FOB-O), Adam Coles (Pirates)

Losses: Jeremy McKenzie (retired), Damian Horgan (retired), Alex Johnstone (work commitments), James Durston, Pati Natoba, Brad Truesdale (Spain), Willie Paia'aua (Horowhenua-Kapiti), Apenisa Ratugoleanavanua

Main men back: Cory Purton, Tim Cadwallader, Karl Bryson, Tyler Rogers-Holden, Gene Syminton, Jared Goodson, Zane Rangi, Tyla McNeill, Curtis Reid, Andrew McDougell, Cyrus Baker (recovering from surgery), Manaaki Selby-Rickit (recovering from surgery), William Evans (recovering from surgery).

Super Rugby: Otere Black (Hurricanes), Aaron Cruden (Chiefs)

Prediction: Semifinalists. Some key experience players have left and a number of players will miss the start of the year which will make things tough. But they still have a solid core of classy club battlers, which should see them among the top half of the table.

They are unlikely to see much of Black this year due to his larger role at the Hurricanes.

FEILDING

2016: Sixth. 2015: Fifth.

Coach: Sean Bristow.

Main gains: Zane Dallinger (Feilding HS), Luke Willis (Hawke's Bay), Brad Stratton (FOBO), Ryan Shannon (overseas), Shannon McDonald (Linton), Chris Willoughby (player-coach Bs)

Main losses: Cameron Rutherford (Auckland)

Main men back: Matt Dalley, Sean Rankin (overseas for the start), Kepu Tuifua (overseas for the start), Crete Cribb, Brad Carr, Ricky Cribb, Ben Wyness, Jesse MacKail, Timo Bristow, Kane Ellmers, Rex Lambert, Travis Taylor, Kere Marino, Patohi Ropoama-Third, Robert Roneke, Carlos Ropoama-Third, Luke Clarke.

Super Rugby: Heiden Bedwell-Curtis (Crusaders), Kayne Hammington (Highlanders), Aaron Smith (Highlanders)

Prediction: Fifth. Super Rugby call-ups for Bedwell-Curtis and Hammington strip some x-factor from the team, as does the departure of lock Rutherford.

But they have an advantage of a returning core very similar to last year. They have a number of fringe rep players with plenty to prove.

FEILDING OLD BOYS-OROUA

2016: Eighth. 2015: Sixth.

Coaches: Glen Gregory, Paula Maisiri, Murray Stewart.

Main gains: Cameron Black (Canterbury Academy ), Matt Iwikau (North Otago), Tipu Harrison (North Otago), Cody Shailer (Returning from Injury), Brad Stratton (Feilding), Tom Stewart ( Waikato Academy), Max Fryatt (Central, Hawkes Bay), George Macpherson (Central, Hawkes Bay), Jeremiah Tuimana-Fryer (Tawa, Wellington), Nathan Handy (Onga Tiko, Hawkes Bay), Lucas Puts (Germany), Raphael Sau (Pirates), Rhys Smith (Australia), Mitchell Smith (Australia), Zeon McNabb (Wesley College), Rogan Moffatt (FOBO Colts), Paora Rakatau (Feilding)

Losses: Hamuera Baker (OBM), Luther Hirini (OBM), Keilan Henry (Kia Toa), Devon Scott (Kia Toa), Adam Beech (Freyberg), Mathias Konia (Injury), Jamie Karatea , Nathan Tweedy, Liam Emery (Injury), Saul Chase, Shai Wiperi (Australia), Alofa Mapuilesua (Auckland), Justin Heemi (work commitments), Justyn Wiperi (work commitments)

Main men back: Amon Panikoula, Jamie Perigo, Will Butters, Simon Smith, Hemi Bettridge, James Jenkins, James Coogan, Simon Goss, Ollie Brosnahan, Alex Hawira, Jacob Ackerman, Mason Bettridge.

Prediction: Sixth. After an off-season exodus, they have done a good job pulling together a handy squad. They have the potential to cause some upsets in what will need to be a bounce back year.

Some top young talent like Black, Fryatt, Stewart and Macpherson bring an air of excitement.

FREYBERG

2016: Seventh 2015: Ninth.

Coaches: Glen Christini, Michael Lalogafau

Main gains: Arjun Singh (Varsity), Josh Leung-Wai (Kia Toa)

Main losses: Viliami Fakava (retired), Karl Stewart (retired), Jeremiah Saua (Auckland), Matt Feaunati (Brisbane)

Main men back: Michael Lockwood, Isaac Tupai, Graham Sullivan, Tila Peti, Mapa Tuipulotu, Andrew Wood, Tony Samau, Lawrence Liuvale, Vili Siafua.

Prediction: Eighth. Building on last year's campaign will be key.

Most of last year's men are back and now the focus must be building depth behind the starters and improving on defence.

Expect them to cause issues for teams chasing a top four finish.

KIA TOA

2016: Runners up. 2015: Runners up.

Coach: Bertus Mulder

Main gains: Sione Asi (Otago Boys' High School, Tevita Fehoko (Canberra Raiders), Ben Lynch-Phillips (Injury), Jeremy David, Tyler Goodwin (PNBHS), Jaxon Taylor (OBM), Brayden Iose (PNBHS), Devon Scott (FOBO), Keilan Henry (FOBO), TamaToa Ropati (Linton), Bati Rongokea (league), Jade Te Rure (Scotland), Wai Waiariki, Knox Maka, Geordie Redfern

Main losses: Newton Tudreu (injured), Zyon Hekenui (break from rugby), Cameron Pearson (retired), Sean Fitzgerald (injured), Valentino Mapapalangi (Auckland), Josh Leung-Wai (Freyberg), Josh McIndoe (retired)

Main men back: Fraser Stone, Jordan Bunce, Atutahi Henare, Nathan Tudreu, Neal Tudreu, Kingsley Teppett, Moeaki Samita, Tevita Talamaivao, Taare Ferris, Vilikesa Raboiliku, Joey Te Huna, Spencer Bishop, Jackson Iose, Daniel Monaghan, Keaton Kawana.

Super Rugby: Jackson Hemopo (Highlanders), Jason Emery (Highlanders), Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes)

Prediction: Champions. This could be the year they shed the bridesmaid tag after finishing runners up for three consecutive seasons.

They have assembled a strong cast of attacking weapons who should benefit from Te Rure's experience at first five-eighth.

But the team's biggest improvement comes up front where they have picked up some quality players with the potential to give their forward pack the same gusto as the backline.

LINTON ARMY

2016: Ninth. 2015: Seventh

Coaches: Ben James (overseas), Ross Rainham, Dwayne Eriksson

Main gains: Keelan Poi (returning), Hunter Anderson (Bs)

Main losses: Logan Broughton (Horowhenua), Jaxon Tagavaitau (break from rugby), Matene Simeon (retired injured), TamaToa Ropati (Kia Toa), Hakarangi Tichborne (overseas), Isaac King (retired), Alex Morrissey (Ireland), Sam Gouk (Waiouru), Ed Williams (overseas), Nestor Mason (unavailable), Reece White (unavailable), Tony Nanai (overseas)

Main men back: Hamiora Thomas, Nick Fakahau, Matt Cressy, Josh Devine, Angus White, Oveleni Tonga, Jimmy Berghan, Tejay Oliver, Adam Erimiha.

Prediction: Ninth. It is going to be an uphill battle this year, but the soldiers should still be competitive as long as they keep their limited front-rowers healthy.

While the returning bunch is small, there is some classy players in the group.

The potential of some returning players late in the season make them a dangerous opposition when the playoff race heats up.

OLD BOYS-MARIST

2016: Semifinalists, 2015: Semifinalists.

Coaches: Reece Robinson, Jason Temara, Brett Davis.

Main gains: Hunter Waller (PNBHS), Kameli Kuruyabaki (Wanganui), Jared Deal (Christchurch), Hamuera Baker (FOB-O), Luther Hirini (FOB-O), Roydon Miller (injury), Matene Ruawai (PNBHS), Waisea Qiokata (injury).

Main losses: Mark Atkins (Hawke's Bay), Antonio Kiri Kiri (but may return during the season), Ben Edwards (Australia), Sam Bergeson (England), Shadyn Osgood (overseas), Dan Law (overseas), Mike Gardner.

Main men back: Rhys Pedersen, Chris Long, Jason Temara, Isaac Gulliver, Michael Gattsche, Benedict Grant, Matt Maoate, Fraser Armstrong, Liam Giltrap, Ben Werthmuller, Chris Cairns, Liam Hallam-Eames, Tuki Raimona, Osea Rokubu, Bain Champion, Zane Burn, Hunter Prescott, Ambrose Curtis.

Prediction: Semifinalists. Once again they have assembled one of the strongest sides on paper, but the battle will be for consistent performances.

Their impressive depth puts them in a strong position. Picking up Hirini will give their backline some extra spark while they wait for Curtis' return.

TE KAWAU

2016: Fifth. 2015: Eighth

Coach: Alistair Mitchell.

Main gains: Ben Parks, Adam Boult (Wanganui), James Holland (Otago Boys' High School), Scott Anderson (Varsity)

Main losses: Ethan Woodmass (Spain, returns May), Kenny Hill, Hayden Stratford, Liam Mitchell (Spain, returns May), Tipu Luke (Foxton), Toby Morland (work commitments, may return), Zane Marshall

Main men back: Shay Ashworth, Cam Barr, Jordan Henare, James Tennant, Taylor Lowe, Tom Parsons, Sam Gammie, Te Atuarere Albert, Harrison Brewer, Shaun Lawton-Sue, Scott Wheeler, Jack Leenards.

Prediction: Seventh. It will be hard to replace the likes of Woodmass, Morland, Stratford and Mitchell. But if Te Kawau can continue with the same confidence they displayed at the back end of last season, a top four finish is not out of the question.

Their are few stars in the team, but they battle well as a group. Plenty of pressure will be on school leaver Holland who is likely to fill the No 10 jersey.

 - Stuff

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