The Wakatipu Premiers rugby team has scored a coaching coup.
Former professional and long-time Otago player Kelvin Middleton has been named as co-coach alongside Tom Bamber.
Born and bred in Queenstown, Middleton played eight seasons for Otago and six for the Highlanders Super 14 team. He also spent a further two-and-a-half years playing professionally in Japan for Coca Cola.
He returned to Queenstown several years ago to raise a family. Middleton, 35, and his wife have two young daughters.
Bamber, a specialist first-five and second-five, notched up more than 100 games for premier Wellington club side Old Boys University before he and his partner moved to Queenstown two years ago for similar reasons – a lifestyle change and to bring up their two-year-old daughter.
Bamber will focus on the Wakatipu backs and Middleton will concentrate on the forwards but they’ve agreed to split the coaching duties down the middle.
“Then we can blame each other,” Middleton says.
Middleton says the Wakatipu role is his first official coaching job, though he did a bit for juniors when playing for
Otago and was expected to help with coaching in Japan.
“I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been coached by numerous great coaches – Peter Sloane, Laurie Mains and Tony Gilbert. It’s about adapting a number of the things I found beneficial for me from those coaches and adding my own twist.
“The hardest challenge is keeping the guys together for a full year.
“Come winter, there’s a bit of snow on the mountain and we’re in a tourist town and a number of the guys have tourism jobs.
“We just have to have a bigger squad to cater for the guys who are unavailable. After that, it’s about performing week after week and not letting the standards drop,” Middleton says.
More than 30 potential players have turned up for initial training sessions and both coaches welcome anyone interested in pre-season runs at the Recreation Ground at 6pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
A trial is likely in early March, followed by pre-season games.
Bamber, who’s bought a section at Jack’s Point, says he’s always been keen to help out.
“It’s always good to get involved in the rugby club. It’s a good way to meet people and get back involved with the rugby community.”
Wakatipu Premiers manager Brad Patterson couldn’t be happier with the two coaches.
“It’s a massive coup.”
The team lost in the semi-final of the Central Otago championship last season to Upper Clutha, who were runners-up to Arrowtown.