Dawson delighted to be back
When it comes to Southland rugby league there are few that share the same sort of passion that Greg Dawson has for it.
He is eager to see the sport prosper in the south.
Over the years, Dawson has fought hard to help keep rugby league alive in the region, in particular during the 1990s and early 2000s. He has taken on various coaching and administration roles to help where he can.
In recent years he has taken a back seat but he is now back, involved and as keen as ever for the Southland flag to be flown proudly in the 13-man code.
Ten years after last holding the role, Dawson will again coach the Southland Rams.
For Dawson, the journey started in 1991 when the Aucklander arrived in Invercargill to visit his mother, who had shifted to the deep south.
Dawson liked what he saw and decided to stay, joining the Riverton Whalers team as a player.
He also spent time playing for the Leopards and went on to coach Southland Boys' High School, Southland under-18 and the Southland senior team at various times.
During the past decade he has not been so involved, although he has kept an eye on what has been going on in the game locally.
He has tried to help where he could in between his commitments to his Road Runner Panel and Paint business. However, this year Dawson is back in the thick of it, answering the call from a former player.
Eddie Hei Hei, who played under Dawson, took on the role of Southland rugby league development officer this year and approached his former coach about the prospect of putting his name forward to coach the Rams again. "That's been the big thing for me, when Eddie took on that role, we've had such a good relationship over the years - we've always had that mutual respect and kept in touch.
"So when he asked, I said I would do what I can," Dawson said.
"It has fired up that spark again pretty quickly," he said of his passion for league.
Dawson said he had been impressed with the enthusiasm Hei Hei and new Southland chairperson Cheryl Low offered the sport in Southland and he said the pair needed as much help as they could get.
The returning Rams coach, who takes over from Warrick Anderson, has kept a close eye on the club season in the past couple of weeks and has started putting the Rams squad through their paces in training.
He likes what he has seen.
"It is exciting seeing new guys that I haven't coached before, I suppose this is the next generation coming through."
Southland will open their 2013 campaign against Otago at Dunedin's indoor stadium next Saturday night, with games against West Coast, Tasman and Canterbury to follow in the South Island provincial competition.
Dawson conceded it was dangerous making any bold predictions, considering they had not had an outing yet. He felt that if the players were willing to do what was asked of them, 2013 could be an exciting one. "When I was last coaching the Rams, we were part of history. We were the first Southland team to beat the West Coast on the West Coast.
"I said to Eddie the other day: how good was that? No-one can ever take that away from us.
"I said to the boys if we work really hard this year, we can get up and knock over Canterbury and it would be the first time a Southland team has beaten Canterbury in Canterbury," he said.
"To have that goal to try and make history is a good carrot to have."
When Dawson talks about 2013 prospects the conversation almost always returns to the level of commitment the players are willing to put in.
He said he had 26 keen men wanting to represent their province at the moment, but added the season would ultimately come down to whether the players were willing to stick by that commitment - especially those that miss out in the 17 named to play in the first game against Otago.
"You can only do so much as a coach, it's really up to them," he said.
Dawson and his fellow selectors plan to confirm the 17 today for the Rams' first game against Otago.
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