Extra incentive for Western Suburbs to shine

MURRAY HILLS
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2014
Cruz Rauner
JONATHAN CAMERON/Fairfax NZ
KEY FIGURES: Cruz Rauner for the Waitara Bears (left) and Andrew Castles for the Bell Block Marist Dragons will call the shots in 2014.

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Western Suburbs is hoping for a big year in the Taranaki rugby league premier competition to celebrate the club's 35th jubilee.

A new coach, new chairman, new deputy chairman and a number of new faces are in the premier lineup.

New Zealand under-17 trainer Greg Davies has taken over the coaching role from Rangi Hiroti who has moved to Australia, with Tui Waru as chairman and Marty Halls his deputy.

The Tigers have the bulk of last year's team back for another season, with Sam Bennett at lock leading the pack.

Travell Ngatoko, who was on the wing last year, has switched to hooker and has looked sharp in pre-season games.

Captain Cezane Searancke has been joined in the centres by newcomer Reggie Pearce, from Rotorua, while newcomers in the second row are Caleb McClutchie and former Inglewood rugby player Wiremu McSeveney.

"We're looking forward to the season, there's a lot of new faces at the club," said Wayne Capper, the manager of the premier side.

"It's our jubilee year, an important one for both juniors and seniors. A lot of planning has gone into the year with the jubilee celebrating 35 years. The club was formed when the Ngamotu and Fitzroy clubs amalgamated."

The Tigers meet the Waitara Bears, the defending champions, in the opening round at the Ngamotu Domain tomorrow afternoon.

The Bears have a nucleus of last year's premiership winning team back, including New Zealand Maori rep Cruz Rauner, who will control the back play.

Also back are big forwards Anisi O'Carroll-Leota, Jarrod Morfett and Henare O'Carroll, while new faces are former Clifton rugby player Paul Tuuta in the centres, Marsh McLeod (promoted from under-17s) in the halves and Morehu Knuckey (hooker and ex-Western Suburbs).

The Marist Dragons - who return to the premier garde after a year's absence - appear to have plenty of firepower up front with prop Andrew Castles likely to shoulder a heavy workload. Other key forwards are Egypt Tangitutu and Brad Pollock.

The backline, led by the Prestney brothers Aidan and Taani, has been strengthened by the return from rugby of Levi McPhee.

The Hawera Hawks, beaten finalists in 2013, will again centre their play around Phil Taylor who will play at either hooker or standoff.

Other leading backs are standoff Kimmy Makea, fullback Ricky Gardner, centre Lieko Lepaio and speedy outside back Delaine Luke.

Providing the grunt up front will be brothers Damian and Jacob Hori in the front row, hard-working lock Karlin Ross and the Brown-Hori brothers Wirimu and Tyson.

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The Coastal Cobras will be led by captain and halfback Darren Parata and outside back Herewini Karena.

One player missing from last year is Ashley Dominque who has shifted to Matamata for work.

The competition was robbed of a sixth team when the Normanby-Okaiawa Knights withdrew from the top division late last week. The move came after the side was thrashed 98-0 in a pre-season match against the Marist Dragons.

WHO PLAYS WHO

TOMORROW
Marist Dragons v Hawera Hawks, 2pm, Hickford Park
Western Suburbs Tigers v Waitara Bears, 2pm, Ngamotu Domain
Coastal Cobras, bye

- Taranaki Daily News

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