Odds stacked against Falcons
Pirtek National Premiership - Odds stacked against Falcons
Given the obstacles facing the Akarana Falcons each year, their record in the Pirtek National Premiership is nothing short of impressive.
And in their quest to continue their string of titles since the revamped competition began in 2010, Steve Buckingham's squad are already on the back foot.
Akarana open their 2014 campaign at home against Wai-Coa-Bay without many of their top players, still involved in the Auckland Fox Memorial club competition.
“With the bulk of our squad still involved in local footy, we have really formed a squad yet,” says the Falcons coach, who is also balancing his commitments with the Mt Albert Lions.
“We’ll be just naming a team to get us through the first game and going from there. I don’t expect players to play a semifinal one day and turn around again the next day for the Falcons.
“Luckily, the club final is the week after, when we have our bye, so that’s handy.”
So, already, the Falcons seem well down the path towards matching last year’s dubious achievement of drawing upon nearly 40 players over their seven-game schedule.
“We did have a big squad last year, purely through injuries,” reflects Buckingham. “Against Wellington, we lost about six guys for the rest of the competition and had pull guys into the squad after that.”
Buckingham admits he also found it difficult to motivate players for representative football, after the highs and lows of their intense club season.
“We struggled to get players to training and basically won the competition on one training a week. Some weeks, we were scrambling to make up a team.
“From a coaching point of view, we have plenty of talent, it’s just a matter of getting them out on the park and committed. When we can do that, we’re fine.
“I hope there are some young guys who take their opportunities this year and we’ll be trying hard to put pride back into the Auckland jersey, after struggling for commitment last year.”
Buckingham pinpoints his forward pack as the key to ongoing success.
“We’ve got some big quality boys who should be unmatched in terms of forward power.”
Wai-Coa-Bay tuned up for their season opener with a 30-30 trial result against Central Vipers last weekend and will need to take full advantage of their ill-prepared opponents if they hope to challenge for this year’s title.
The Vipers host Canterbury Bulls in New Plymouth, searching for their first competition victory in almost two years and conscious that their women – runners-up at their national tournament this year – now hold bragging rights in the area.
Meanwhile, Wellington Orcas face Northern Swords at home, hoping to continue their run of success against their rivals. Orcas won the corresponding fixtures 38-14 in Whangarei last year.
2014 Pirtek National
Round One (August 23/24)
1.30pm Wellington Orcas v Northern Swords
Petone Recreation Ground, Wellington
Orcas: 1-Anthony Utanga, 2-Bernard Gregorius, 3-Jon-Marc Stowers, 4-Raymond Lesoa, 5-David Saumolia, 6-Shaw Playford, 7-Petera Rikiriki-Williams, 8-Paul Lemana, 9-Michael O'Brien, 10-Robbie McKenzie, 11-Jon Masaga, 12-Nicholas Phillips, 13-Michael Nathan, 14-Grayson Putu, 15-Denzil Hokianga, 16-Ben Tuia, 17-Chance Tauri
Swords: 1-Israel Tahere, 2-Sharif Mangu, 3-Wiremu Snowden Te Iringa, 4-Ross McFarlane, 5-Rikki Tarau, 6-Daniel Fulop (capt), 7-Samuel Henry, 8-Christopher Apoua, 9-Joel Freeman, 10 tbc, 11-Te Tuhi Tipene, 12-Patrick Tane, 13-Kelson Harding, 14-Jordan Hool, 15-Chris Mellar-Reynolds, 16-Andre Lennox, 17-Alex Salase
Referee – Tony Arnel Touch – Eric Kneepkens & TBC
2.30pm Central Vipers v Canterbury
Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Vipers: 1-Aaron Whitikia, 2-Jo Ratu, 3-Che Barlow, 4-Vailoa Kereti, 5-Tyson Young, 6-Cruz Rauner, 7-Colin Hokianga, 8-Kele Kose, 9-Travl Ngatoko, 10-Gorden Karaitiana, 11-Jarrod Morfett, 12-Wiremu McSeveny, 13-Richard Gillies, 14-Dylin Hall, 15-Sione Sifa, 16-Josh Kerr, 17-Ale Feaunati
Bulls: 1–Ken Tofilau, 2–Danny Latu, 3–Erwin Sauni, 4–Vinnie Paul, 5–Cyrus Timo-Latu, 6–Izic Placid, 7–Darren Tonihi, 8–Paradise Mann, 9–Manu Weepu, 10–Chris Bamford (capt), 11–JJ Smith, 12–Corey Lawrie, 13–Dan Moevao, 14–Toi Sepuloni, 15–Agaese Fiso, 16–John Tafua, 17–Vincent Tusa
Referee – Tane Kaiwai Touch – Dave Robati & Marissa Edmonds
2.30pm Akarana Falcons v Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions
Birkenhead War Memorial, Auckland
Falcons: 1-Mao Uta, 2-Tee Mahe, 3-Tangi Ropati, 4-Willie Peace, 5-Simon Luafalealo, 6-Simon Ieremia, 7-Levi Norton, 8-Kaleni Fraser, 9-Semisi Mau, 10-Trent Schaumkel, 11-Taylor Daniels, 12-Karl Semeti, 13-Brandon Motion, 14-Sam Cook, 15-Junior Fotu, 16-Matt Tafutu, 17-Siliga Kepoa
Stallions: 1-Caleb Heke, 2-Isaac Robinson, 3-Mounga Molisi, 4-John Koko, 5-Ryan Gordon, 6-Johnson Peri, 7-Hayden Karena (capt), 8-Tarquin Court, 9-Raureti Grace, 10-John Love-Henry, 11-Cody King, 12-Terry Kopua, 13-Jason Whareaitu, 14-Hamiora Mihaka, 15-Callin Tereu, 16-Mosese Mafi, 17-Mac Carson
Referee – Steve Kilgallon Touch – Rochelle Tamarua & TBC
Counties Manukau Stingrays bye
A season media guide will be available before the first round of games this weekend.