Halfback lives highs and lows of rep rugby

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 30/10/2012
tdn jamieson stand
ANDY JACKSON
Jamison Gibson-Park shows off the Shield after the Manawatu game

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Six months ago Jamison Gibson-Park was downcast after missing out on the New Zealand under-20 squad.

Yesterday, he was celebrating his inclusion in the New Zealand Maori side, just a few days after signing off a Blues contract.

"It's been a massive week for me," Gibson-Park said from Gisborne yesterday where he was visiting family. "I wasn't really expecting to be named today to be honest, so to get the news, it's pretty overwhelming really."

Gibson-Park joins fellow Taranaki reps Jason Eaton, Jarrad Hoeata, Kurt Baker and Andre Taylor in Jamie Joseph's 26-man squad to play three games against Leicester Tigers, an RFU Championship XV and Canada, who are coached by Kieran Crowley.

With the All Blacks taking three Maori halfbacks - Piri Weepu, Aaron Smith and Tawera Kerr- Barlow - Joseph had to choose between youth or the likes of Taranaki No 9 Chris Smylie.

He opted for the former in Gibson-Park, 20, and Wellington's Frae Wilson, 23.

"I was in a pretty big hole after missing out on the under-20 team and my club rugby was suffering a bit, so I have to really thank guys like Coops [Taranaki coach Colin Cooper] for showing faith in me and giving me a crack," Gibson-Park said.

After making his debut off the bench in Taranaki's Ranfurly Shield defence against King Country, Gibson-Park went on to make 11 appearances in 2012.

He only found out he had made the Maori squad when it was named yesterday morning and had yet to speak with Joseph.

It will be the first time he has travelled to Britain.

At the start of the season he had two goals - making the New Zealand under-20 side and trying to get some game time for Taranaki.

"I really saw the season as a bit of a building phase, so to get the game time I did for Taranaki, and for it to go as well as it did, I was pretty stoked," he said.

"From then on I was just hoping to get a [Super Rugby] wider training squad contract. So to get what I have and to be selected in the Maori side . . . it all hasn't sunk in yet."

He had yet to think too much about the tour or set himself any goals. "I've just informed the family and the phone has been going berserk," he said.

Taranaki's other reps in the Maori squad all deserved their spots off the back of some pretty solid form in 2012.

Bay of Plenty's Tanerau Latimer will captain the squad, which departs for London next Tuesday.

The biggest talking point was the selection of former Taranaki first five-eighth Willie Ripia who has been playing development rugby for Bay of Plenty since he was sacked by the Force for stealing from team-mates to feed a gambling addiction. Ripia is the only specialist first five-eighth named, although Joseph will have the option of using Wellington's Tim Bateman in the No 10 jersey.

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NEW ZEALAND MAORI SQUAD: Forwards: Hika Elliot (Hawke's Bay), Quentin MacDonald (Tasman), Ben May (Waikato), Bronson Murray (Bay of Plenty), Ben Afeaki (North Harbour), Jacob Ellison (Otago), Jarrad Hoeata (Taranaki), Jason Eaton (Taranaki), Romana Graham (Waikato), Ross Filipo (Wellington), Nick Crosswell (Manawatu), Tanerau Latimer - captain (Bay of Plenty), Elliot Dixon (Southland), Karl Lowe (Hawke's Bay), Shane Christie (Tasman). Backs: Jamison Gibson-Park (Taranaki), Frae Wilson (Wellington), Willie Ripia (Bay of Plenty), Tim Bateman (Wellington), Jackson Willison (Waikato), Charlie Ngatai (Wellington), Declan O'Donnell (Waikato), Andre Taylor (Taranaki), Kurt Baker (Taranaki), Trent Renata (Waikato), Kade Poki (Southland).

- Taranaki Daily News

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