All 14 Premier clubs from the top of the Hutt Valley to the Miramar peninsula are busy planning for another busy year of Premier rugby. The 130th season of Wellington club rugby kicks off on Good Friday, 25 March, with the opening round of the Swindale Shield.
Most clubs have made changes to their coaching teams this year, including a group of well-known former players joining the Premier and Premier Reserve coaching ranks for the first time.
The Upper Hutt Rams have a familiar face joining their Premier coaching ranks in 2016, with former first five-eighth Ben Aoina joining the club as Premier backs coach. Aoina played over 170 matches out of the Maidstone Park training fields and also spent two seasons playing for Petone. Aoina joins Adam Campbell at the Rams, who was technical advisor in 2015. Previous head coach Nathan Williams remains with the club as Seven’s coach.
Two former players will also be taking over the Rams second fifteen, with recent lock Ryan Clark and former wing/fullback Shannon Nightingale taking the reins.
The Rams have also confirmed that a new women’s team is forming in 2016. The coach will be Paul Va’alepu, uncle of Ajay and the late Nene Va’alepu. Many of the players on board are sisters of men’s players.
Northern United will hope to return to the Jubilee Cup with an all-new coaching staff in 2016. Steve Haturini and Steve Bachop have stepped down, replaced by Gerrard Faasavalu (head coach), Rob Aloe (backs coach) and Tane Langdon-Lane (forwards coach).
Former Norths player Faasavalu returns to his home club from Sydney where he has been Director of Coaching and head coach of Parramatta in NSW's Shute Shield competition. Gerrard is a former New Zealand U19, Otago and Highlanders player who also played in France. His playing career was cut short in 2004 by a serious knee injury.
Aloe is a former Swindale Shield and Jubilee Cup winner, starting at first five-eighth in their 10-10 Jubilee Cup final encounter with MSP in 2008. He has also played and coached in Scotland and played a handful of games for Johnsonville last season.
Langdon-Lane was Norths Premier Reserve co-coach in 2015, alongside Siua Fiso, who returns in 2016 with Talanoa Malaulau and Richard Higgins. Peter Tapau and James Maote are the Norths Colts coaches and Matt Poutoa and Dawn Patelesio will coach the defending champions Norths women’s team.
Former Norths captain and Super Rugby prop Jacob Ellison is RDO of Norths this year.
Another former Northern United and Hurricanes prop, John Schwalger, will be a familiar face this season. Recently retired Schwalger has joined Paremata-Plimmerton as their RDO for 2016.
Paremata-Plimmerton’s Premier coaching team will be Javan Brown and Frank Bentham. Javan was the Premier team’s assistant coach last year, while Frank joins the club after spending time in Australia. Last year’s Colts coach Mark Puati will coach their Premier Reserves, alongside Ronnie Cooper, whilst Ringo Hagai and Semi Kuresa have paired up to take up the challenge with running the Colts team.
Two recent former players will also be helping Wainuiomata’s second XV, with recent five-eighth John Monu and flanker Matt Sole assisting Nick Domonkos. The top team will be coached by Justin Wilson, Steven Crilly and Daniel Smith.
For several seasons Willie Lafaele provided razzle-dazzle to Tawa’s backline, so his addition to Tawa Premier backs coach is exciting. Lafaele joins forwards coach and recent Tawa Premier lock Doug Fletcher on the clipboards at Lyndhurst Park. The pair is taking over from Dion Waller and Steve Rogers, the latter now the CEO of Wellington Rugby. Katsu Takeuchi returns as Tawa’s skills coach.
The successful Tawa Premier Reserves will look to defend their first round title with new coaches, Duncan Kirk and ex-Premier outside back Vice Saletele. Vice played for and helped coach the Tawa Premier Reserves last year as well. Another former Tawa Prenier back, Mala Mailo, signs on in 2016 as backs coach of the Colts. Mailo is joined in guiding Tawa's U21s by Ed Felix, former Norths Jubilee Cup winning lock Toni Leota and former Samoan international Petaia Petaia.
Defending Jubilee Cup champions Old Boys University will be coached by Jeremy Little as head coach, Jamie Williams as back coach and Bernie Upton as forwards coach. Former Hurricanes lock Upton comes across from Marist St Pat’s, where he has been coaching their second XV in recent seasons.
Graham Pitman is joined by Stradford Adams in coaching Old Boys University's Premier Reserve team and last year's coach Dave Jensen teams up with the retunring Gary Hilsdon in coaching the OBU Impalas Women's side in 2016.
Former Marist St Pat’s first five-eighth James McHardy has returned from Australia to join established Premier coaches Ross Bond and Brendon Reidy at the 2015 Jubilee Cup runners-up club.
MSP’s Premier Reserves will see 2014 WRFU Coach of the Year and former U85kg coach Andrew Robinson at the helm and assisted by former players Nic Fitisemanu and Jamie Parkinson. Loose forward Fitisemanu played professionally in Wales and France and Parkinson played over 100 matches for MSP, played international rugby for Smaoa and was helping coach the club’s First Grade team last year.
Former Hurricanes midfielder Tane Tuipulotu re-joins Poneke’s coaching staff this year, alongside Shane Pihema, after re-joining his former club last year as defence coach. Ray MacDonald has moved with his family to Taranaki.
Poneke’s Premier Reserves have two new coaches in 2016 in Makea Pokere and Ueli Faletolu, whilst former Premier players Fale Seve and Fa’atoto Moananu coach Poneke’s Colts, with Misipalauni Monanau and Sam Issako coaching the Women’s team.
Last year’s Poneke Colts coaches Serena Curtis-Lemuelu and Jared Curtis have moved across to Oriental-Rongotai.
Oriental-Rongotai also have the services of former club No. 8 turned New Zealand Sevens Player and Super Rugby wing Roy Kinikinilau, who takes the helm of the Magpies Premiers alongside Mason Lawrence. Kinikinilau returned from overseas to play and help coach Johnsonville last year, whilst Lawrence was Head Coach of Johnsonville.
Mason Malagamaalii and Kiliona Samuelu coach the Ories Premier Reserves in 2016 and Lui Aukuso and Sai Tuma’ai coach the Ories women’s side.
Richard Deck remains on board as Head Coach of the Wellington Axemen, who made the Jubilee Cup for the first time in 20 years in 2015. Former Hurricanes captain Rodney So’oialo is assisting with Marty Berry this year. Former All Blacks, Wellington and Wairarapa-Bush and Upper Hutt midfielder Berry replaces Grant Cederwall who is unable to commit fulltime but remains with the club in a general assistance role.
The Axemen’s Premier Reserve side sees Steve Mann move up from the Colts to be head coach, alongside John De Gregoio and Damian Rapira-Davies who joins the Hataitai club from MSP. Paddy Kymbrekos takes over as Wellington’s Colts coach in 2016 after coaching the U85kg side to the semi-finals last year. Kymbrekos is away until the end of March, so Murray Mexted will initially fill this role.
The two Dans, Vulu and Pavihi, are the former successful Hutt Old Boys Marist Colts coaching team. This year they join up to coach the HOBM Premiers as they seek to defend their Swindale Shield title and re-capture the Jubilee Cup they last won in 2014. They take over the reins from Matt Lee and Josh Syms. Pavihi was the club’s RDO last year, with Tony Clout filling that role at present.
John Pereira and Mark Keating return to coach the defending champion Colts side, while Adi Maney and Kent Harris will coach the Premier Reserves and Peter Time and Mo Laumatia are the HOBM women’s coaches, assisted by Lasse Pedersen and Taniela Tavite.
The Avalon Wolves have appointed Aaron Falloon as the new Premier Head Coach. Originally from Manawatu, Falloon has spent the past 15 years playing and coaching in the Netherlands. His final years as head coach of the Haagsche Premier team saw them win back to back Dutch national championships. He played for Manawatu age grade and development teams and also over 300 club games home and overseas.
Falloon teams up with backs coach Jason Aiken, whilst Nick Brown and Joe Nepia coach the Avalon Premier Reserves, Jude Perez and Mark Curtis oversea the Avalon Colts and Daniel Olive, Troy Okane and Lucky Sullivan take the Avalon Women’s side in 2016. Scott Waldrom returns as Avalon’s RDO.
The Johnsonville Premiers will be coached in 2016 by Logan Tauiliili and Esava Tiko with Hiko Davies on board as Technical Advisor. Tauiliili comes down the motorway from Tawa, while Tiko is a former Ories and Wests Roosters utility back. Garry Archer, who most recently co-coached last year’s Wellington U16 Development team, will coach the Hawks’ Premier Reserves.
Daniel Farani and Riki Flutey are Petone’s Premier coaching team in 2016. In just one change to Petone’s coaching line-up across all teams, Dion Ross has stepped down from coaching the Premier Reserves and has been replaced by Graham Purvis.
Avalon Wolves: Aaron Falloon and Jason Aiken
Hutt Old Boys Marist: Dan Vulu and Dan Pavihi
Johnsonville: Logan Tauiliili, Esavo Tiki and Hiko Davies (Technical Advisor)
Marist St Pat’s: Brendan Reidy, Ross Bond and James McHardy
Northern United: Gerrard Fasavalu, Rob Aloe and Tane Langdon-Lane
Old Boys University: Jeremy Little, Jamie Williams and Bernie Upton
Oriental-Rongotai: Roy Kinikinilau and Mason Lawrence
Paramata-Plimmerton: Jarvan Brown & Frank Bentham
Petone: Daniel Farani and Riki Flutey
Poneke: Shane Pihema and Tane Tuipulotu
Tawa: Willie Lafaele, Doug Fletcher and Katsu Takeuchi (Skills Coach)
Upper Hutt Rams: Adam Campbell and Ben Aoina
Wainuiomata: Justin Wilson, Steven Crilly and Daniel Smith
Wellington: Richard Deck, Rodney So’oialo and Marty Berry