Five players to watch: Northland

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018    Getty Images

Here are five players to keep an eye on during the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup season.

Electric, exciting and unpredictable, the return of Rene Ranger provides the Taniwha with an exciting game breaker who will cause plenty of problems for opposition defence coaches. Able to play anywhere from the midfield to the back three, Ranger will be a crucial utility option for Northland coach Derren Witcombe and provides genuine strike power in the place of Jone Macilai who is in doubt with a broken leg. Born and bred in Whangarei, Ranger is a Taniwha cult hero and will be desperate to help his side into the Premiership as his career enters its twilight. 


Debreczeni is one of the more interesting signings to be made across the whole competition in 2018. With no Dan Hawkins or Peter Breen in their squad this year, Northland have scooped Melbourne Rebels playmaker Jack Debreczeni to take the reins in the ten jersey. At 6 foot 4 and 102kg, Debreczeni will be one of the most physically imposing first five-eighths in the competition. While undoubtedly strong with ball in hand, the 25-year-old playmaker is also an astute tactician and classy playmaker as proven across his five years with the Melbourne Rebels.


Northland’s Scottish import Murray Douglas will be a vital cog in the Cambridge Blues pack. After toiling away in Scotland, Douglas made a big impact in both New Zealand and Australia in recent years. Douglas first impressed on the Australian domestic scene with his high work rate and strong work in the air securing a place in the Melbourne Rebels in 2017. Douglas made his Taniwha debut later in 2017 and was so impressive across his ten appearances that the Hurricanes named him in their 2018 squad. Expect Douglas to form a tight partnership with the impressive Josh Goodhue in the second row.


Although he first played for Northland as a teenager in 2015, this could be the year that Sam Nock announces himself as a star on the national stage. With a bullet pass, astute tactical kicking game and fast feet, Nock is the archetypal modern day halfback. Injuries have stalled Nock’s development over recent years, but if the 22-year-old can remain fit and healthy, expect him to be one of Northland’s best in 2018.


Verney’s switch from Wellington to Northland has flown under the radar but he could prove to be a crucial signing for the Taniwha in 2018. Verney was one of the Lions best during their Championship-winning campaign in 2017 and will now form a lethal partnership with All Black Jack Goodhue in Northland’s midfield. A relentless ball-runner and slick distributor, Verney has spent the Super Rugby season in the Chiefs camp where he would have soaked up plenty from experience midfield exponents Charlie Ngatai and Anton Lienert-Brown.