Next three weeks are key for unbeaten Marist

DON WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 08/05/2014
nathan burgess
ROBYN EDIE/ Fairfax NZ
WINNING WAYS: Marist Rugby Club stalwart Nathan Burgess is coaching the club's division 2 team this season.

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Big Nathan Burgess might be an unbeaten first season rugby coach but he is a realist.

While his Marist division 2 team is making every post a winning one, he is aware his record is under threat over the next three weeks against Albion Excelsior, Collegiate and Riverton.

"They are three very good teams and only after playing them will we have a better idea of where we at.

Burgess boasts a proud Marist background and is an integral part of the Miller St Marist culture.

While the lofty 36-year-old has only coached his son Hunter's Under-7 Marist team, he played over 200 games during 17 seasons (1997-2013) for the senior side and also represented Mid Canterbury and Nelson Bays while on loan at division 2 NPC level.

That long playing period featured rewarding experiences with talented team-mates in present veteran division 2 and former Stags flanker Iona Sipa, Stags locks Brendan Nally and Hoani Macdonald, livewire representative flanker Jeremy Winders and elusive representative winger Pailate Fili and the like.

"We won the Galbraith Shield in 2001 which was a highlight of the new millennium," the 2.04m (6ft 9in) lock observed.

Burgess is one of the tallest players to wear the black and green jersey although former Stags lock Andrew Campbell, of similar dimensions, played with him for the club one year.

"At the start of the season we set out to attract more numbers and create a favourable environment for newcomers to be part of.

"I have been lucky to relate well to the club's A coach Mark Tinnock and former premier coach Jamie McKenzie who came on board for me in an advisory capacity . . . Both have been a great help to me."

As a player he always found Allan Frew a learned Marist coach from whom he benefited greatly.

The vast experience of Iona (Sipa), former Stags loosie Dion Bates, winger Peter Taylor, talented prop Siaki Taualofa, and halfback Hayden Sutherland have formed a powerful team nucleus of leadership value to younger players, he said.

Former rugby league player Willie Pero had made the transition to rugby better than Benji Marshall on the blind side flank, he said.

Sutherland had to play because of a halfback shortage and Burgess himself fronted for his team on the paddock for 40 minutes last week.

"Having to play is not a bad thing because it gives a coach an engine room insight as to where players are going and should not be going."

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Meanwhile, keen judges are billing the Riverton-Blues clash as the match of the day. There was a somewhat controversial and bitter rivalry between the teams last season when Blues was eventually disqualified on a player eligibility technicality from an earlier clash when they met.

Blues won the last Round Robin game but was disqualified a few days later because of the incident, allowing Riverton to go through but being beaten by Excelsior in the semifinal.

Going into Saturday's game, Riverton and Blues are ominously poised in third and fifth positions respectively behind Marist and Collegiate, split by Excelsior in fourth slot. Riverton has won four of its five games and Blues three.

As player fitness improves and grounds become more testing, the business end of the competition is about to arrive.

Burgess is concerned that injuries might blunt his team's edge from now on but that issue was always likely to arise with any team from one game to another, he said.

- The Southland Times

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