Manawatu players sticking with home

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Centre Hamish Northcott said, "Guys in Manawatu are leaving school and wanting to stay, as opposed to leaving for Canterbury or Wellington to find a pathway.

"But with all the All Blacks we've had of late with both the Aarons, Smith and Cruden, and Ngani [Laumape] and Nehe [Milner-Skudder] has shown there is a pathway so the boys are quite excited to stick around.

"They're passionate about the province and want to perform for the province and that's awesome. There's nothing better than playing for the team you grew up watching and supporting, and then getting out there and doing it for them."

There was a good local feel to the side and that was what was special about the smaller unions, Northcott said.

Manawatu had been in camp for two weeks, they were getting through their content and being joined by returning Super Rugby players.

"I think we're in a good space and always looking to improve game by game heading into the season," he said.

Manawatu had a good club season and the majority of Turbos players had performed well during the play-offs, he said. The amalgamated club Marist Old Boys achieved their first win of the competition since their merger and that had been good for the club scene.

Now into his fifth year with the side, Northcott said it was a little different for him this year as he was taking on more of a leadership role.

"The older guys like Callum Gibbins are heading away so you find yourself as one of the seniors and, dare I say, a veteran player, so I've quite enjoyed that. I've embraced it and been captaining the side while keeping the seat warm for Heiden Bedwell-Curtis before he comes back.

"Nick Crosswell has come back. He was with the Dragons in Wales for two years and that is awesome not just for his playing ability but he brings back leadership which is helpful.

"Also Kurt Baker, he's been floating around in the mix. He's a guy who has played for us before and he has come home. In the back sessions he has added plenty of value and experience and he's a good bloke with it," he said.

At tighthead prop a new player is returning Feilding player Sean Paranihi, who has played for Canterbury and Counties Manukau, while Fraser Armstrong has returned to the region after spending time in Waikato and Auckland.

In warm-up games mixed results have been achieved but in games lost they had not been beaten by too much.

"We're heading in the right direction and getting better and better leading to more confidence," he said.

Coach Jeremy Cotter has former Manawatu player Aaron Good as his backs coach. He's been coaching in the province and is well known to the players.

As for his own aspirations, Northcott his taste of Super Rugby with the Blues had left him wanting the chance again.

"Once you've had the taste you want to stay there," he said.

He hadn't been involved for the last two years but he felt if he got his individual performance right and the team went well it would only add to his case.

"But at the moment all that I am focused on is pulling on the green and white and playing week in and week out and doing what I can to make that happen," he said.