Oh mate, just making sure you're up to speed
The Wind Sock and the Swan are ready for the start of the national provincial championship.
The two players, aka James Broadhurst and new recruit Marty McKenzie, took differing roles at yesterday's team launch.
While Broadhurst was happy up front of the crowd flapping away, McKenzie took the quieter option, as he sat gracefully, his long neck occasionally popping up above the finger food and between the stubbies of Tui on the tables.
In between, the sponsors attending learnt there were nine players in the squad who will be celebrating Father's Day on September 7, including Doug Tietjens, Leighton Price, Codey Rei, Chris Smylie, Blade Thomson, Charlie Ngatai, Timo Tutavaha, Warwick Lahmert and Sione Lea.
They also found out there were four players in the squad who could ask dad about playing for Taranaki - Kane and Beauden Barrett, Berny Hall and Rhys Marshall, while Broadhurst has the most Taranaki caps of the entire squad with 42. In other words, the class of 2014 are a young and inexperienced side which is pretty reflective of the NPC as a whole.
There are plenty of new faces in that squad, nine in fact, who sat down to hear James Marshall and Kurt Baker encourage those present to be their friends.
"The intention of today is to make you, the sponsors, as comfortable as we can around us," Baker said. "Whether that's at the gym, the pub, the supermarket or the Crave Club, we just want everyone to feel comfortable coming up and saying hello."
The highlight for many present was the speed mate-ing, which was not to be confused with speed mating, according to Marshall.
No, speed mate-ing involved the players spending two minutes at each table asking any question thrown at them.
Before then, captain Kane Barrett, who is dealing with concussion problems, announced that Marshall had been appointed co-captain.
"We're really excited about this season," he said. "Last year was a really disappointing season for us as we fell short of expectations. We've had quite a few months to review and learn from last year."
Some of the strongest messages from the launch came from Hall.
He said the squad had resolved during a camp last week that they would no longer put opposition teams like Canterbury and Wellington on a pedestal. "This year we won't be doing that, we'll be putting ourselves up there and making ourselves the big dog and we'll have a real change of attitude."
Taranaki kicks off the NPC tomorrow night against Counties Manukau at Yarrow Stadium.
Taranaki Daily News