The countdown is on to the start of the 132nd season of club rugby in Wellington, with the Swindale Shield again kicking off in Upper Hutt on March 17. The province’s 14 Premier clubs are well into their preparations, and today we look at those calling the shots at training and will be from the sideline during matches - the coaches – with a mix of the familiar, new, and returning in 2018.
Fitting the ‘familiar’ category are defending Swindale and Jubilee Cup champions Old Boys-University. After claiming the double in his first season as the main man Jamie Williams returns as the head coach, with both Rua Tipoki and Michael Barnes also back. That trio will be joined by Greg Halford on the staff of the Goats’ Premiers. Gary Hilsdon is joined by Mui Liumaihetau with the Impala’s Women's side, with former women’s coach Dave Jensen returning to club coaching with the Harper Lock Shield-winning Premier Reserves. Zack Feaunati will combine his club management duties with coaching the Colts alongside former Premier players Dan Mellon and Con Williams and current player Te Wehi Wright, while Hamish Vance is back for another season guiding the First Grade side.
Runners-up Hutt Old Boys Marist will also have a familiar voice at their helm in 2018 with Kent Harris back in charge at the Hutt Rec. Dan Vulu is assisting Harris this year. They have swapped their roles from 2017 where Dan was the head coach and Harris the assistant. Adrian Maney and John Pereira will look after the Premier Reserves. Peter Time returns to the Women’s side. Coaching the Colts are Matt Lee (former Premier coach) and Mark Keating (former St Bernard's 1st XV and HOBM Colts coach). while in the lower grades Poni Lealofi and Alex Wood return to the First Grade and Under 85s respectively.
It’s also status quo at Marist St Pat’s where Andrew Robinson returns for a second year at Evans Bay. Bernie Upton returns as an assistant with the pair joined by Arden David and club legend Murray Tocker, with all three knowing a thing or few about winning Jubilee Cups. Ryan Setefano and Lucky Tuiatua will continue to dovetail their Premier playing duties with coaching the clubs Women’s side while there are new coaching teams for their Premier Reserves and Colts. Edwin Meachen moves from the latter to the former with Daniel Kauraka joining him, while the age-grade setup will be headed by Mike Tolova’a with his brother JT and Malaga Leota. MSP icon Fa’atonu Fili will split his time between the Colts and Women.
The fourth of last year’s semi-finalists, Tawa, have shaken things up, but only slightly. Vice Saletele moves into the head coaching role with Doug Fletcher returning to look after the forwards and the well-traveled Damian Rapira-Davies joining to handle the backs; the trio are joined by former All Black Rodney So’oialo as technical advisor. The Premier Reserves will be coached by Thomas George and Nigel Paranahi, the trio of Richard Preston, Dave Payne, and Dave Birnie will take the Colts, Stewart Ogilvie the First Grade, and Cam Prestidge and Gene Johnston will co-coach the Under 85s. Like HOBM, Steve So’oialo and Dion Waller will be involved as well across the club’s sides.
Perhaps the splashiest coaching moves are at Petone. After taking a year off Jeremy Little has taken the Villagers head coaching job, with the 2015 Jubilee Cup winner (with OBU) joined by former All Black Piri Weepu as the backs assistant after finishing up his playing career with a stint for Wairarapa Bush last year. Completing the Premier coaching trio is the last Petoneman to lift the Jubilee Cup in Chris Molenaar with the 200-game Villager looking after the forwards; the trio replaces last year’s pair of Graham Purvis, who had to step away midseason, and Tui Bradbrook. Jamie Ferreira and John Manuel are the Premier Reserve coaches, long-time St Bernard’s 1st XV coach Russell Shaw has moved into the club game with the Colts where he’ll be assisted by Grant O’Halloran. James Te Iwimate and Fred Fereti have taken on the Women’s side, a group that includes their respective representative wives.
Just up the valley a third person to have pulled on the black jersey will have the reins of a Premier side with recent NZ 7’s coach Scott Waldrom returning to the job at Avalon. Errol Weston – who with John Bradbrook stepped in last season when Aaron Falloon resigned for personal reasons – has stayed on as forwards coach with Cameron Cross taking on player/coach duties with the backs. Junior Brown and Owen Jackson will take their Premier Reserves while the club has taken steps to reestablish their Women’s side with Falloon returning to coaching in that capacity, assisted by current Premier player Ben Peni.
Another club to make change is Poneke, with high-profile duo Mason Lawrence and Roy Kinikinilau appointed to coach the Kilbirnie Premiers in 2018 after mostly taking last year off following stints at Johnsonville and Oriental-Rongotai before that. Club legend Misipalauni Moananu returns to the Premier Reserves with Toby Robson assisting him with James Mose and Manu Mati taking on their Women’s side. Thomas Kimber takes charge of their Colts, a group not much younger than himself.
Just up the road Wellington have also made sweeping changes appointing Daniel Berry as their new head coach after guiding their Under 85kg side to championship glory in 2017. Kingi Matenga, Grant Cederwall and Anaru Grant will assist him with Craig Reid and Numi Mika taking the Premier Reserves. The quartet of Charlie Fuller, Alex Slade, Toli Valiaea, and Matt Hodkingson will handle the duties for the Colts.
Leading those clubs that are either largely or completely unchanged at Premier level is Oriental-Rongotai where Lui Aukuso and his player/coach assistants Whetu Henry and Sean Hay all return, with Mason Malagamaalii doing likewise with their champion Women’s side. The remainder of their appointments are yet to be confirmed.
It’s also status quo at Northern United with Gerard Fasavalu back at the Premier helm after guiding the club back into the Jubilee Cup last term, with Rob Aloe and Richard Higgins completing the team. Tane Karepa will look after the Premier Reserves with Katsu Takeuchi who has moved from Tawa, Tane Landon-Lane and Alphonso Parsons are the Colts coaches, and Matt Poutoa returns for another season with the Women.
Across the harbour at Ngati Toa Domain Phil Gibb and Mike Hunter return for a second season at Paremata-Plimmerton. In their appointments, Semi Kuresa moves from the Colts to the Premier Reserves alongside Siaosi Aliva and Mike Mardon with Mark Tooman – who guided Kapiti College to sixth in the college Premiership last year – taking on the Colts job. Findlay Siania and Tala Misky also return as the Women’s coaches.
At Johnsonville Logan Ili is back for a third season with the Hawks, joined by Kane Thompson for another season as player/coach. Their Premier group is completed by Alfred Pelenise and Esavo Tiko, with the remainder of their coaches to be confirmed,
The other two clubs each have assistants moving into the main job in 2018. At Hardham Cup winners the Upper Hutt Rams Tim Kareko has stepped up from the assistant’s job to replace Adam Campbell and he’ll be joined by Rangi Kelly and the distinctive tones of Paul “Shaggy” Assur. The Premier Reserves will be taken by Shannon Nightingale, with Tony McCashin and Kapi Tanirau handling the Colts.
Finally its same but different at Wainuiomata with Justin Wilson having stepped down and last year’s assistants Dan Farani and Dan Smith taking on co-coach duties. Peter Togia and Mani Sage will take their Colts, Tumua Le’afa and Maryanne Collins the Women’s side and Matt Harrop their revived Under 85’s team. Their Premier Reserve coaches are yet to be finalised.
Avalon Wolves: Scott Waldrom, Errol Weston, and Cameron Cross
Hutt Old Boys Marist: Kent Harris and Dan Vulu
Johnsonville: Logan Ili, Kane Thompson, Alfred Pelenise, and Esavo Tiko
Marist St Pat’s: Andrew Robinson, Bernie Upton, Arden David, and Murray Tocker
Northern United: Gerard Fasavalu, Rob Aloe, and Richard Higgins
Old Boys-University: Jamie Williams, Rua Tipoki, Michael Barnes, and Greg Halford
Oriental-Rongotai: Lui Aukuso, Whetu Henry, and Sean Hay
Paremata-Plimmerton: Phil Gibb and Mike Hunter
Petone: Jeremy Little, Piri Weepu, and Chris Molenaar
Poneke: Mason Lawrence and Roy Kinikinilau
Tawa: Vice Salatele, Doug Fletcher, Damien Rapira-Davies, and Rodney So’oialo
Upper Hutt Rams: Tim Kareko, Rangi Kelly, and Paul Assur
Wainuiomata: Daniel Smith and Dan Farani
Wellington: Daniel Berry, Kingi Matenga, Grant Cederwall, and Anaru Grant