Waikato rugby league coach Morgan Kutia could be forgiven for taking as much notice of today's opposition as he does of his own team.
His Waikato side take on Coastline this afternoon at Resthills Park and making the contest even more interesting for the Waikato coach, is the fact that he will also take charge of the WaiCoa Bays Stallions side which plays in the national zone competition later in the season.
So while Kutia will be focusing on gearing his players up the best he can, the performances of Coastline players will be very much noted, for when it comes time to select the Stallions.
"First and foremost, provincial football is still strong and you still want to have bragging rights as to who's the top team in the region," Kutia said.
"To be honest, a strong Coastline will mean a strong Stallions.
"I've got two hats to wear, but Waikato comes first and we'll worry about the Stallions after."
Today's game is one of two representative fixtures for each province during the season, as they also play Bay of Plenty. Coastline play them in Tauranga on June 4 and Waikato do battle with them in Rotorua on July 2.
Preceding each of the matches, the under-15 and under-17 teams will square off.
Kutia, who coaches the Hamilton City Tigers in the WaiCoa Bays club competition, took Waikato last year for the first time after two years as assistant coach.
And this season will be his first with the Stallions.
Last year he coached Waikato to two victories when they played a double header on one day, but he is looking forward to a better format this time round.
"It wasn't the best form of competition, having to play two representative games within a couple of hours of each other," Kutia said.
"That's why they've made the competition different this year, so that we only have one representative game on the one day, which is a lot better for the players, and a lot safer."
He's had a squad of 24 who have trained together one night a week for the past couple of weeks, but a raft of injuries means the team has been revamped somewhat.
"When one door closes, another opens," Kutia said.
"Those people that are going to be playing for Waikato for the first time, there's a real opportunity for them to step up and perform.
"If we could have all the players that we selected, then it would be a very strong team," Kutia said.
Still, most of the players who will take the park have played for Waikato before so they know how to prepare.
"When they come to training, the level steps up and that's good to see," Kutia said.
"It's just a matter for us of getting them to gel together and play as a team, because their fitness and all that kind of stuff should be OK."
Coastline will be made up predominantly of players from the Otumoetai Eels club.
"So they'll have an advantage in combinations because they've been training since October, whereas Waikato have only just had two weeks of training," Kutia said. "I just hope that our players stand up."
And the Waikato style of play will be firmly based around that of the disciplined Tigers outfit.
"I think to go away from what I already know, I'm tempting fate," Kutia said.
"So all we do is play the same type of football. We stick to the same game plan, pretty much of ball security, field position and defence."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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