There is a buzz of excitement surrounding the 2019 Marlborough Boys’ College First XV as they head into a new season.
A carefully-planned and full-on pre-season preparation, which included a gruelling “Longest Day” physical and mental challenge, has given the 25-strong squad a kick start into their University of Canterbury championship campaign.
Head coach Matt MacDougall, who will take the reins this year after long-term mentor Gray Cornelius was recruited to the Tasman Mako coaching staff, says, “there is a good balance of experience returning [18 players] with some really exciting young players coming in for their first season”.
There is certainly plenty of power in the front row with 2018 Junior Knights prop Monu Moli teaming up with Tino Vakaloa, Te Ariki Peipi and Max Morris.
The imposing Olly Lawson will captain the side from No 8, with his vice-captain being goal kicker Keelan Murrell, who will wear either the 10 or 15 jerseys.
Brad Thomas makes his debut at Year 13 and, in the opening pre-season game against St Pats from Wellington, proved he is pushing for a starting spot at lock, with his high work rate around the field.
There is plenty of experience in the backs with the likes of hard-running midfield utility Tristan Taylor, who will pair up with Clyde Paewai and Ethan Kahui. Liam Duncan will cover both fullback and midfield positions.
Another new player to keep an eye on is open side flanker William MacKenzie, who plays well outside his weight bracket but pound-for-pound would be one of the strongest in the side and is extremely quick over the ball and around the field. Although only a year 11 pupil he will push the more experienced Sky Boskett-Barnes and Edan Fitzpatrick hard for a starting spot.
Ryan McLeod is also in his debut season and will run out at halfback. He was selected on the back of a strong Marlborough under-16 campaign and is a crisp clearer of the ball plus a very handy goal kicker to back up Murrell.
Skipper Lawson is excited by the team’s potential and said there was already a strong culture within the group.
“We are pretty positive this year, we have a good team culture going on which started from the Longest Day … being together with no phones, no outside communication, just us bonding.
“We want to be quite confident … all the boys are exciting to get into it. We have a strong base of returning players, plus all the new boys are fitting in well … just doing their jobs.”
Lawson said the team was well-balanced, with strength among both the back and forward divisions, and were firmly focussed on reaching the UC Championship top four this season
The championship kicks off on May 4 with a long away trip to Ashburton to tackle Mid Canterbury. MBC’s first home game is against St Andrews College on May 11.
MBC First XV 2019.
FORWARDS: Monu Moli, Tino Vakaloa, Max Morris, Te Ariki Peipi, Bayley O’Hagan, Brad Thomas, Viliami Napa’a, Nase Taufa, Andre Hebberd, Sky Boskett-Barnes, William MacKenzie, Edan Fitzpatrick, Olly Lawson, Jaden Eathorne, Ben Dalton (Wider Training Group), Leon Vantuel.
BACKS: Ryan McLeod, Keelan Murrell, Dylan McManaway, Tristan Taylor, Liam Duncan, Clyde Paewai, Ethan Kahui, David Asiata, Ben O’Sullivan, Dartell Rarere, Lotu Solomona, Joel Lavender (WTG).
Coaching staff – Matt MacDougall (Head Coach), Vernon Fredericks (Assistant), Todd Nicholas (Assistant), Paul Beckett (Strength and conditioning), Ma’ara Ave (Manager).
The MBC First XV’s UC championship home games:
May 11 – v St Andrews College
May 21 (Tuesday) – v Shirley HS
June 8 – v Rangiora High School
June 29 – v Christchurch BHS
July 6 – v Waimea Combined
July 27 – v Timaru BHS