Wanderers vow: It's game on
Waimea Old Boys' massive victory over Wanderers in last season's Car Company Nelson Bays club rugby championship final might provide memorable material for the scrapbook.
But in terms of their rematch in tomorrow's Trafalgar Park decider, neither side is devoting too much head space to history. It's not dominating either camp's thoughts - still, it's impossible to dismiss it entirely.
Last year, Taylors Contracting Wanderers were like possums caught in the headlights as Star and Garter Waimea surged to a staggering 36-3 lead after just 20 minutes on their way to an emphatic 51-22 win. Now, as Waimea contemplate their 14th senior championship title and Wanderers their first, no-one's likely to be predicting anything like last year's lop-sided encounter.
While those Wanderers players involved in last year's rout might have notions of retribution lodged somewhere in the back of their minds, they're two different teams and in Wanderers' case at least, bearing a whole new attitude.
This season, Wanderers have won both previous encounters against Waimea 17-12 and 30-20, although Waimea had also lost twice to Marist before beating them 15-3 in last Saturday's semifinal. For Wanderers' player and assistant coach Dan Perrin, he's sensed some significant growth in this year's lineup.
"We're a totally different team, I think we're a lot more evenly balanced this year," Perrin said.
"The guys that were there last year probably learnt a bit about finals footy and we've touched on it a little bit. But you've got to turn up with that attitude and want to play.
"If you're the possum in the headlights, you're going to get run over. We're determined to turn up and play this week, we're not there to just to be another number in the final like last year and get run over, so we'll be throwing everything at it."
Perrin clearly recalls last year's humiliation.
"They came out firing and we didn't really have an answer, but we'll be addressing that . . . and once we're out there, we're going to make it a game of rugby. We're not going to give it to them this year."
Waimea co-coach Dion Mytton said last year's result hasn't featured significantly in their buildup.
"We haven't really looked at last year. As far as we're concerned that's history, it's just another challenge for us, different groups of players," he said.
"They've beaten us twice this year. They finished top qualifier, we've come from third, so we're just going in with a relaxed mindset to play some footy and see what happens.
"We're not going to lie down to anyone but they've obviously been the form team throughout the year.
"Our biggest strength's our team unity, that's been massive this year. I'd like to think that our forward pack's been pretty good this year and I think our backs have come along as well, so it's been a team effort really."
Waimea have some injury concerns, with both their starting locks, captain Ben Coman (calf) and Tevita Cavubati (shoulder), forced off during last Saturday's semifinal. Scans have cleared both players of any serious damage although they'll be given every opportunity to prove their fitness.
One key area of interest tomorrow is likely to centre on the respective loose forwards.
The arrival of dynamic No 8 Tone Ng Shiu from Auckland this season has provided better balance to Wanderers' loose trio, where Steve Soper and Alex Ainley have also played critical roles. Athletic new flankers Pete Samu and Jeff Lepa have also enhanced the power and mobility Waimea's forward pack.
It's a significant day for both clubs, with Waimea and Wanderers also set to contest the Nelson Bays division two final, their match kicking off at Trafalgar Park at 1pm.
However, the day kicks off at 11.30am when Nelson College meet St Andrew's College in their Press Cup secondary schools clash.
It will be Nelson's first outing since their disappointing 5-0 loss to Wellington College in the quadrangular tournament final two weeks ago in Whanganui.
- The Nelson Mail