A change in mindset is needed if Taranaki is to ever win the national provincial championship, says captain Craig Clarke.
Addressing more than 300 guests at the annual Amber and Black Awards on Thursday night, Clarke made it clear what is needed for Taranaki to step beyond their third and fourth place finishes of the past two seasons.
"It's our mindset as a team and province," he said. "We have to tell ourselves we belong in the top echelon of New Zealand rugby, whether that be in the top four or the top two, we belong here.
"There is no reason why Taranaki should not be the top team in provincial rugby in New Zealand."
The 69-game veteran felt his side under-achieved in 2012, despite winning six Ranfurly Shield matches and losing in extra time to Canterbury in the NPC semifinals.
He believes Taranaki must stop thinking they are "punching above their weight" and adopt a more ruthless attitude.
"I hate that phrase around here and if we get rid of it, I think success will come," he said.
Clarke also took the time to pay tribute to two Taranaki born and bred players - Michael Bent (Ireland) and Jayden Hayward (Western Force) - who will not be wearing the team's colours next season.
"I know its hard when you have to weigh up where you are going to be based, with both of you being Hawera lads and having to choose between there or Dublin or Perth," he joked.
"It's a pretty easy decision unless you like going to the races and playing up like they do down there."
There were also tributes to Willie Rickards and Laurence Corlett, who have retired.
Taranaki Rugby Football Union chairman Lindsay Thomson also spoke to the audience, saying planning was already under way to take the Ranfurly Shield back off Waikato after the 46-10 pasting they suffered last month.
"Rugby is the vehicle for bringing us together as a province and there is very, very few shows in town that can do that," he said.
"That's why it did hurt so much when we did lose the Shield because it mattered to us - it doesn't in some other parts of the country."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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