Homecoming for new Southland Rams coach Te Iwi Wairau
The 2017 season is a homecoming for new Southland Rams rugby league coach Te Iwi Wairau.
The 39-year-old was brought up in the south, he attended South School and Waiau College, played rugby league for City, Winton and Cowboys, before he left in 1995 to join the army at the Burnham Military Camp.
"I am a Southlander born and raised and I have always said that if I get a chance to coach Southland, I would and a chance came up this year and I thought I could give it a go, and I have been a part of set up programmes at the moment hopefully for the better." he said.
Wairau saw the job advertised on social media and has taken over the reins from Moses Fa'amoe-Ioane after the Rams made giant strides in 2016, claiming the South Island regional championship title and finishing one win away from playing off for a spot in the 2017 New Zealand Premiership.
READ MORE: Southland Rams looking to step up in 2017
His role is not only about the Rams, but it is about raising the level of the game in Southland.
"It is looking to build on last season's performance and also build on the skills as well, build on the team skills and the team culture and set up a programme that can be used for a while, so that is what my whole intention is and also to help the younger coaches and younger players as well," he said.
"My main goal is to help younger coaches and players and to teach and coach them the correct way to play, just the little things, even the seniors, I am loving coaching the seniors because they are loving the coaching side of things."
The Christchurch-based Wairau boasts an impressive rugby league CV.
He has been the development officer for Canterbury Rugby League, director of the Aranui High School Academy, is a talent scout for the NZ Warriors, has a senior club coach qualification and has turned out for the Aranui Eagles.
"I have done some coaching around New Zealand, I have gone into the high performance side of things," he said.
Wairau who works as a teacher in Christchurch will commute with his family for games this season, while he has an Invercargill-based management team to help out during the week.
"I come down on Fridays for the captain's run and coaching and I do the video analysis up here and everything else is done by my assistant coaches I have down there, along with the trainers and personal trainers I have down there as well," he said.
The new-look Southland Rams team features a number of new faces in 2017 and will be co-captained by Dylan Lovett and Shaun Tamariki-Todd.
The Rams face Otago in Dunedin on Saturday, as they look to repeat their success from 2016.
At a glance
What: Southland Rams vs Otago Whalers
When: Saturday, 2pm
Where: Kensington Oval, Dunedin