The New Year has brought about a few changes for Brendan Haami.
Last year he was working as a development officer for the Taranaki Rugby Football Union, as well as assisting Willie Rickards coach Southern to the club's first ever senior A title.
This year he's quit his job at the union, taken a job at McDonald Real Estate and accepted the position as head coach of Stratford.
Making the change more significant is that it's Stratford's 125th jubilee, a milestone that will be celebrated over Easter with a host of events.
"It was a really hard decision to leave Southern because we did have such a good year," Haami said. "We developed a lot of players down there and between Willie and I and Iwi [fellow assistant Anthony Iwikau], we developed a culture, not only in the A team, but in the whole club."
Haami is not fazed by going from a championship club to one that finished bottom.
He's returning to his roots, where senior rugby started for him, putting him on a path that included Taranaki, Hurricanes and New Zealand Maori selection.
The glory days might seem a distant memory for many Stratford supporters, but Haami is keen on the challenge and trying to improve an enthusiastic squad.
"One thing about Stratford is that even though they haven't performed well over the years, they still have the same boys turning up. That tells me they are committed because it's hard to keep fronting when you are losing week after week, year after year.
"So my challenge is to create depth and grow players and coaches in the club, that's what I see my role is, particularly in the first year."
Assisting Haami through 2014 will be former Coastal coach Neil McDonald, whose experience will be an asset.
Haami did not see the club's 125th jubilee as putting more pressure on his shoulders, rather as something they can all celebrate.
"There is no doubt it's a big year for Stratford rugby because there has been a lot of great players before us who have represented the club, the province and New Zealand. It will be a year when I want the players to know that but it's also a year that we want to grow rugby and the year should be more than just about the seniors."
As for his long-term future, Haami remains ambitious. He lists coaching Taranaki as a goal.
"That's what I'd like to do, that's the ultimate goal. But for me, it's more about growing our local players first and looking after those who need the help to get higher honours."
- Taranaki Daily News
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