Above: OBU openside flanker Daven Flanker on the side of the scrum in white headband during last year’s Jubilee Cup final. Candy scored two tries – watch them at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZfqlTrwgDo at 55s and 1.42m.
“The boys are looking strong. We have a target on our backs, but we are training hard and have lots of quality. I don’t think it’ll take us long to gel,” Daven Candy warns opponents ahead of the opening round of the Swindale Shield this Saturday.
The Old Boys University flanker was the Billygoats’ Premier Player of the Year in 2017, scoring two tries in the Jubilee Cup final win over Hutt Old Boys Marist. Candy has fond memories of the decider, capturing his telling contribution in a humble fashion.
“The first try was just a case of flopping over the line. I noticed we had an overlap on the short side so instead of hitting the ruck I stayed out towards the wing and caught the ball in space. My second was a matter of running the right support line. I was buggered after chasing Regan Verney, but I guess if you don't put in the mahi, you don't get the treats,” he recalls.
Candy didn't see many treats at Westlake Boys’ High School. He wasn't even a member of the First XV laughing he was “chubby” and “four-foot flat.” Leaving the North Shore in 2013 was desirable for many reasons.
“I have a degree in architecture and that was my main reason for moving to Wellington. The architecture degree in Wellington is better than the one in Auckland,” Candy explains.
“I have supported the Lions most of my life. Even though I lived in Auckland I always watched the Lions. I love the way they play,” he continued.
Michael Barnes has been a loyal supporter of Candy. The former Billygoats flanker selected Candy for the Premier Colts and sparked his upward ascent.
“Michael was a strong player in my position in his day. He has given me lots of good advice. I got bigger and with that came more confidence. Michael took a real interest in me and I’m grateful for that,” Candy acclaims.
Between 2012 and 2015 the OBU Colts Green side won 35 matches in a row. Candy was a member of the 2014 John E Kelly Memorial Cup winning team gradually usurping others into the starting lineup and winning Colts Player of the Year in 2015.
“I spent a lot of time on the bench in my first season, but the competition was healthy and the culture strong,” Candy enthuses.
In 2016, Candy made his Premier debut against the Upper Hutt Rams in Round One of the Swindale Shield, but it wasn’t until the Jubilee Cup last year where he felt he had a foothold on the seven jersey.
Candy scored two tries in a narrow 19-17 win against Hutt Old Boys Marist and three tries in the 72-12 demolition of Petone. He collected 11 Best and Fairest points.
Perhaps OBU’s most impressive display in 2017 was the semifinal thrashing of reigning Jubilee Cup champions Tawa. OBU had no players selected in the 42-man Wellington Lions training squad named earlier that week. Half of Tawa’s starting forward pack featured in that squad. The final score was 50-22 to OBU.
“The Lions selection wasn't our focus because it didn’t affect most of the team, but those it did were pretty keen to prove a point,” Candy reveals.
Candy was briefly in the Lions wider training group and it would appear injuries are the only thing preventing him from making a decent fist at representative honours in 2018.
In the past twelve months Candy has suffered from a torn hamstring, fractured rib and a nerve in his neck.
“It’s pretty frustrating, but I guess its part and parcel of playing a contact sport. I put my body on the line and I'm not going to change that. I just wish I had a bit more luck,” Candy reflects.
OBU starts their defence of the Swindale Shield against Poneke, a club noted for their fine loose forwards. Greg Foe and Galu Taufale are Wellington Lions.
Despite losing Hawke’s Bay duo Hugh Renton (Christchurch) and Marino Mikaele Tu’u (Highlanders) OBU boasts depth in the flanks with Wellington Lion Will Mangos, Tasman Sevens flyer Sam Coventry and Candy in the mix for selection.
“It’s always a good battle against Poneke. They play with a lot of heart and aggression,” Candy says.
OBU have had two hit-outs in the pre-season against Petone and Varsity in Palmerston North. The former fixture was the first audition of a wider training squad featuring over 50 players while the latter was a more serious affair contested over 80 minutes. The highlight in the Varsity match was two tries scored by centre Maile Koloto returning from shoulder surgery.
During the week Candy is a building apprentice. His mother (a former detective turned real estate agent) and step father both attended the Jubilee Cup final. Candy has maintained a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend Tessa who has recently secured employment with accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Round one of the Swindale Shield kicks off at 2:45pm this Saturday at Awakairangi Park (six games) and Maoribank Park (Avalon v Wainuiomata).