Anthony Wise earns Waikato starting spot

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 06/10/2012
Anthony Wise
HELD BACK: Waikato’s Anthony Wise’s has his progress halted during his side’s Ranfurly Shield win over Taranaki on Wednesday night.

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Two years ago Anthony Wise was playing test rugby for Fiji, picking up three caps including one against the Wallabies.

But the 30-year-old has flown under the radar since then, plying his trade in Waikato club rugby for Otorohanga.

Now he is part of a Waikato team that holds the Ranfurly Shield and is fighting for an outside chance of reaching the ITM Cup premiership semifinals.

The man from Lautoka played two tests against Japan and one against Australia in 2010 but had contacts among the Fijians playing for Otorohanga and responded to an invitation to join them last year.

This year he was part of the Otorohanga side that won the Waikato club championship for the Waikato Breweries Shield and caught the eye of the Waikato coaches, particularly for his high work rate and ball carrying ability.

While Wise was initially selected in the Waikato Development XV, injuries in the A squad have seen him make a handful of appearances off the bench in the premiership and today he gets his first start against Counties-Manukau at Pukekohe. He is hoping his elevation to the Mooloo side will help his cause to get back into the Flying Fijians national side.

"Since all the games are on Sky our management back home have scouts looking at all Fijian players.

"I haven't got a call-up yet but I just want to concentrate on my rugby here and take one step at a time.

"At first the pace of the game here was too fast for me and then I adapted to it and the fitness needed and this is my second year."

Waikato coach Chris Gibbes said Wise had earned his spot.

"He's done really well coming off the bench," Gibbes said.

"He's come in through the development team and then stepped in and done his little bits and pieces off the bench and now he gets his opportunity this weekend to start.

"He'll give everything because he's that type of player."

Meanwhile, a player at the other end of the experience scale with 61 games for Waikato, Brendon Leonard, gets the start at halfback tonight and is in no hurry to quit the rugby scene here for greener pastures overseas despite the emergence of Tawera Kerr-Barlow ahead of him in the Chiefs' side.

After experiencing two firsts in his career in the one year - winning the Super Rugby title with the Chiefs and winning the Ranfurly Shield with Waikato - he is now hungry for more.

Leonard, 27, said he was contracted through to the end of next year by the Chiefs and Waikato and was not looking any further ahead than that at this stage.

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"I can't really leave the Chiefs after the season they've had. It's been good to make a bit of history with them and also win the Shield with Waikato which I've never done before.

"It would be nice to hang around a bit longer as I enjoy representing this region," he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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