After stumbling at the penultimate hurdle last season, the Tasman Mako will challenge for their maiden Mitre 10 Cup premiership title in 2019 with one of the strongest squads in their short history.
The Tasman Rugby Union announced their official Mako squad for this year’s National Provincial Championship campaign on Saturday, just a week before their season begins with a tough fixture against Wellington in Blenheim, kick off 2.05pm.
The Tasman class of 2019 is laden with Super Rugby talent, no less than 17 players having turned out for a Super franchise earlier this year.
The most notable omissions from last season’s side are 93-game veteran Alex Ainley, who was restricted by injury to only two games, and Solomon Alaimalo, who has stayed in Hamilton to play for Waikato. Flanker Jed Brown, Vernon Fredericks (retired) and Ray Niuia (Samoa) will also be absent.
Tasman’s top try scorer in 2018, Crusaders flyer Will Jordan will pose a huge threat from fullback though the dangers of outside backs such as Leicester Faingaanuku and Levi Aumua can’t be ignored.
Midfielders David Havili and Alex Nankivell, first fives Mitchell Hunt and Tim O’Malley, plus lively halfback Finlay Christie are quality backline options.
The incumbent blindside flanker for the All Blacks in 2018, Liam Squire’s wretched run with injuries and family issues saw him withdraw his name from World Cup contention, meaning he will be available for the Mako. His presence adds weight to an already impressive loose mix with Jordan Taufua, Ethan Blackadder, Sione Havili and Shannon Frizell on the books.
The locking options of Pari Pari Parkinson, Quinten Strange and veteran Joe Wheeler are particularly solid by provincial standards while, up front, the propping stocks are formidable, including former All Black Wyatt Crockett, current AB squad members Atu Moli and Tim Perry plus Maori All Black Tyrel Lomax. Ryan Coxon, Blair Prinsep and Isaac Salmon will provide solid back-up.
Hookers Andrew Makalio and former Waratahs Super Rugby player Hugh Roach complete a powerful pack.
It is expected the selectors will add another halfback to the squad soon, and perhaps a loose forward as well, especially with a couple of players taking knocks in Friday’s pre-season match with Otago.
Tasman Rugby Union Marketing manager Les Edwards feels it is the best squad the Mako has ever assembled.
“It’s a magnificent squad, plenty of All Black, Maori All Black and Super Rugby-level players, as well some very talented club players.”
With Leon MacDonald’s departure, Andrew Goodman has taken over as head coach for 2019, a role he will share with Clarke Dermody.
“They are definitely a well-coached side with Goody, Clarke Dermody, Shane Christie and Gray Cornelius involved.
“You couldn’t ask for a better team,” says Les.
Mako 2019 squad: Levi Aumua, Ethan Blackadder, Finlay Christie, Ryan Coxon, Wyatt Crockett (vice captain), Leicester Faingaanuku, Shannon Frizell, David Havili (captain), Mitchell Hunt (vice captain), Will Jordan, Tyrel Lomax, Andrew Makalio, Atunaisa Moli, Alex Nankivell, Timothy O’Malley, Pari Pari Parkinson, Rupena Parkinson, Tim Perry, Blair Prinsep, Hugh Roach, Isaac Salmon, Liam Squire, Quinten Strange, Jordan Taufua, Sione Havili, Joe Wheeler.