New captain for Makos
If Tasman Makos' rugby coach Kieran Keane was looking for someone to lead this year's ITM Cup team by example, then he's definitely found his man.
Team captaincy doesn't necessarily have to involve fist-thumping, paint-stripping rhetoric and in that context, new skipper Shane Christie's relaxed off-field demeanour looks well suited to the Makos' mould.
However, his on-field presence is another matter entirely where his typically vigorous "follow me" approach should provide exactly the right template for his new leadership role.
In many respects, he'll be adopting a similar style to last year's skipper Andrew Goodman, with Keane initially approaching Christie last season following confirmation of Goodman's move to Irish club Leinster.
"I thought ‘sweet as', it didn't really worry me too much because after being [Makos] vice-captain last year - I was more surprised with that than getting named captain I think. It's all worked out good," Christie said.
He admitted to limited previous captaincy experience, extending to a couple of seasons as skipper of the Tasman sevens team. But as a former New Zealand sevens representative and a member of last year's New Zealand Maori side - and now with 31 games for Tasman behind him - the 27-year-old openside flanker has amassed valuable cumulative experience and some well-honed rugby instincts.
He also commands respect and isn't the least concerned by his relative lack of captaincy pedigree.
"It doesn't worry me at all. It's a team game, you don't get that much pressure put on you as captain," he said.
"I just want to put it out on the field and hopefully that'll do most of my talking for me. My performance is what I want to be focusing on.
"It's going to be exciting and not a lot will change [for me] I don't think - a few speeches at the end of the game and maybe a little bit more promotional stuff, but it'll be much the same I think."
With the bulk of last year's squad returning, former Mako Alex Ainley returning from three seasons in Japan and ex-Samoan international No 8 and captain George Stowers now in the mix, Christie was confident of having plenty of qualified support to call on.
"There's heaps of help there and the boys get along really well. That's probably the only thing you can really worry about, if there's issues in the team outside of rugby. But if everyone's on the same page, it should go smoothly, it's just about getting results.
"Everyone talks together, there's a few good leaders within the team. Everyone gets on well and as long as we stand by each other, you can lead the team with a group of maybe five or seven players. It's very rarely just one person saying something."
As for Keane, he had no hesitation in offering Christie the captaincy.
"It's a no-brainer really," Keane said.
"He's shown a lot of support towards Andrew Goodman and a lot of actual leadership when Andrew was captain. He just fits the mould for what I was looking for. He leads by his actions and he's a Makos man through and through."
And there's no question of him missing selection.
"He has the ability to play seven and eight so he's going to be on the field virtually the whole season, God willing."
Christie's with the Crusaders' Super 15 squad as they prepare for Saturday's qualifying final against the Queensland Reds in Christchurch.
But owing to his limited game time with the Christchurch-based franchise this year, and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw's expected return to the side, Christie was excited at the prospect of rejoining his Tasman team-mates.
"It's been a big pre-season for me, [I've been] pretty much training for Tasman since January so I'm looking forward to getting a few games in.
"The boys are training hard and KK's [Keane's] got some good new ideas so I'm looking forward to it."
He hopes to be back in Nelson this weekend to play for his Nelson club side in their Nelson Bays championship semifinal against Wanderers.
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