New cap 'adds balance' to Tasman Makos

SELECTION SURPRISE: Tasman Makos coach Kieran Keane hopes Willie McGoon will pour on the speed against Northland this weekend.
SELECTION SURPRISE: Tasman Makos coach Kieran Keane hopes Willie McGoon will pour on the speed against Northland this weekend.

Willie McGoon from Canterbury is the surprise selection in the Tasman Makos rugby team announced today to play Northland at Whangarei on Saturday evening in the opening round of the ITM Cup.

Out of the University Club in Christchurch, the Fijian-born speedster played for the Cantabrians against the Buccaneers at Kaikoura in a pre-season warmup match, where he scored a try.

Makos coach Kieran Keane said he adds the key ingredient of speed out wide and felt that without him they didn't quite have the balance of midfield and outside backs.

He gets in ahead of two of last year's incumbents, Jack Umaga and Sione Holani, while New Zealand world champion under-20 winger Mitchell Scott, another speedster, has been bracketed on the right wing with Lucky Mulipola, both carrying niggling injuries.

There is no place for Waitohi hooker/loose-forward Vernon Fredericks in the squad nor one of last year's regulars, former Marlborough Boys' College skipper Hamish Cochrane.

Francis Smith gets the starting job at hooker with Quentin MacDonald on the bench. Keane said Smith's good form and the fact MacDonald has only just joined the team swayed his decision, but he expects the Central and Crusaders hooker to play a leading role sooner rather than later.

The return of Andrew Goodman at second-five and captain and No8 Mark Bright, both after playing overseas in 2010, considerably boosts the experience and firepower and Goodman will have the goal-kicking duties.

Bright and halfback Steve Alfeld are joint vice-captains.

Other new caps in the team are lock Riki Hoeata, brother of new All Black Jarrad Hoeata, centre Kieron Fonotia from Canterbury, while on the bench, Chilean international lock Pablo Heuete comes in along with loose-forward Liam Squire and prolific-scoring first five James Proctor.

Each squad must carry an extra front-rower on the bench this year and prop James Hadfield gets the No23 spot on Saturday.

New Zealand sevens rep Shane Christie starts on the openside flank with Crusader Jonathan Poff at six in what looks a very mobile forward pack.

Crusaders fullback Tom Marshall was not available and Keane said he'll be given the week to rest and recover from a knee niggle.

All Black and Crusaders prop Ben Franks was also unavailable due to All Black commitments.

With the cramped and demanding nature of this year's ITM Cup competition, Keane said managing the players' workload will be a key part of the year.

He said Waitohi first five Daniel Hawkins and lock Dan Squire, brother of Liam, were close to selection and remain right on the fringe.

The Makos play Northland on Saturday at 5.35pm followed by North Harbour at 6.05pm on Tuesday at North Harbour Stadium. They come to Lansdowne Park in Blenheim on Sunday week, July 24, to play Counties Manukau at 4.35pm.

Tasman Makos: Robbie Malneek, Lucky Mulipola or Mitchell Scott, Kieron Fonotia, Andrew Goodman (cpt), Willie McGoon, James Marshall, Steve Alfeld (vice-cpt), Mark Bright (vice-cpt), Shane Christie, Jonathan Poff, Joe Wheeler, Riki Hoeata, Fai Mika, Francis Smith, Sam Prattley. Subs: Quentin MacDonald, Craig Moore, Pablo Heuete, Liam Squire, Shawn Begg, James Proctor, Scott or Jack Umaga, James Hadfield

The Marlborough Express