Mooloo men looking for a quick return to Premiership

Friday, August 10, 2018    

It was a tough season for the Mooloo men last year who managed only two wins in the competition.

To compound their situation they have lost some key players including former All Black Zac Guildford, who played seven times at fullback last year. Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who made one appearance for the side last year, is now playing in Europe.

First five-eighths Sam Christie's 64-game experience for the side will be missing since he took up a contract with Treviso in Italy last summer. Also in Europe, with Benetton is hooker Hame Faiva, a 41-game veteran who had proven a handy try scorer, touching down 10 times for the side.

Lock Jacob Skeen, who had 31 games, will also leave a hole in the middle row.

But there has been some useful recruiting done in the off-season and there will be special interest in the pairing of inside backs Jack Stratton and Fletcher Smith.

Stratton has made his mark in Christchurch where he was a member of the last two Mitre 10 Cup-winning teams and the Crusaders. He also captained New Zealand Universities last year while also playing in the New Zealand Barbarians side in the opening game of last year's British & Irish Lions tour.

First five-eighths Smith has played 34 games for Otago since his debut and has scored 287 points in that time, although last season he played most of his games at fullback. His goal-kicking skills should be especially useful for the side.

Returning from Taranaki are the O'Donnell brothers, wing Declan and halfback Kylem while other returnees are loose forwards Jono Armstrong, who played 18 times for the side in 2012-13, and Murray Iti, who played 17 times in 2015-16, hooker Michael Mayhew, who made three appearances in 2015 and Chiefs, and former Rebels, prop Toby Smith, who has 50 appearances for the province.

Dwayne Sweeney is also back after injury frustrated him last season but his experience in the midfield with 82 games will be invaluable while backing him in the experience stakes will be loose forward Adam Burn with 44 appearances.

Looking to make their debuts for the side will be: prop Haereiti Hetet, Tim Bond at lock, Quinn Tupaea at second five-eighths, Pepesana Patafilo in the midfield, outside back Mosese Dawai and fullbacks Jordan Bunce and Niven Longopoa.

The Waikato squad is: Sekope Lopeti-Moli, Michael Mayhew, Samsoni Taukei'aho, Hetet Haereiti, Joshua Iosefa-Scott, Ayden Johnstone, Sefo Kautai, Atu Moli, Toby Smith, Timothy Bond, Sam Caird, Laghlan McWhannell, James Tucker, Jono Armstrong, Jahrome Brown, Adam Burn, Murray Iti, Luke Jacobson, Mitch Jacobson, Jordan Manihera, Kylem O'Donnell, Jack Stratton, Raniera Takarangi, Damian McKenzie, Fletcher Smith, Matthew Lansdown, Anton Lienert-Brown, Pepesana Patafilo, Bailyn Sullivan, Dwayne Sweeney, Quinn Tupaea, Tyler Campbell, Dawai Mosese, Declan O'Donnell, Sevu Reece, Jordan Bunce, Niven Longopoa.