Wins Come Off Field for Swords
Wins Come Off Field for Swords
First-year Northern Swords coach Jon Renes refutes the “young guns” description being thrust upon his NZRL National Premiership side.
Without a win in the competition since 2013, they’re not exactly “guns” yet and “young” doesn’t quite fit comfortably either.
But after their heart-breaking 30-28 loss at the death to Wellington Orcas last week, Renes is confident his charges are ticking off most of the boxes they set for themselves entering the season.
Previously the Swords trainer, Renes has a unique perspective on the culture of the team, both past and present.
“I think this is my fifth year and I can’t recall one with as many 17-18-year-olds on the squad,” he admits. “But I wouldn’t go as far as to call them young guns.
“We’ve got a good mix of players that have been in the Swords since its inception, as well as those first-year players.”
But, to some extent, the youngsters have lead an upswing in team performance on the field, as well as providing a breath of fresh air off it.
Rookies like centres Caleb Aekins and Tamati Leach, hooker Stevie-Ray Haenga Albert and prop Kawana Marsden are simply following the representative pathway through the Swords ranks, bringing little of the baggage that has plagued the premier programme previously.
“For me, the biggest issue we’ve faced is probably similar to other regions at various times, and that is one of attitude and effort,” says Rene. “There seemed to be little mana attached to the Swords jersey and that’s really what we have tried to focus on.
“Part of that is actually bringing players through the 17s and club system, enjoying some of that youth and enthusiasm, and creating an environment that is stimulating.
“One of the great things about the young guys is that they probably haven’t taken much notice of the Swords prems over the years, because they have gone so poorly.”
Renes can now see some light at the end of the tunnel, which was evident, even as the Swords dropped their season opener to Central Vipers by 34 points. They were 34-0 down at the break, but held their rivals even over the final 40 minutes.
Last week, the northerners held the upper hand for most of the contest, but conceded a try under the posts on full-time, converted under pressure by Wellington five-eighth Bronson Marino.
“We feel at some point, this will fall into place,” says Renes. “That was a big turning point for us last week.
“It’s a tough competition, everyone knows that, and whatever happens on the scoreboard happens.
“The scores probably don’t reflect our performance this season. In terms of the benchmarks we have set, we couldn’t be happier with how we’re tracking.”
The Swords will have to find another level to their game if they are to salvage a win from the rest of this season, though. This weekend, they take on an in-form Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions outfit, with four-time champions Akarana and titleholders Canterbury lying in wait down the stretch.
Right now, the final looms as a rematch of the controversial 2014 climax, with the Stallions (3-1) now facing a favourable Swords-Vipers-bye closing run.
Unbeaten Canterbury visit the Orcas in a possible banana-skin game, while the Falcons v Counties Manukau showdown has the potential to put both Auckland powerhouses out of contention.
Saturday, September 26
Wellington Orcas v Rockcote Canterbury Bulls
Porirua Park, Wellington
Referee - Chris McMillan
Touch - Noel Woods & Antz Akavai
Counties Manukau Stingrays v Akarana Falcons
Massey Park, Papakura
Referee - Shane Rehm
Touch - Simon Taylor & Kena Waikai
Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions v Northern Swords
Puketawhero Park, Rotorua
Referee - Aaron Donald
Touch - Henare Chadwick & TBC