Ex-Highlander Kelvin Middleton (right) confirms he’s stepping down as head coach of the championship-winning Wakatipu Premiers rugby team.
Middleton – coach for three years following a year as technical advisor – says he’d always intended bowing out after this season to spend more time with his young family.
After not qualifying for last year’s semis, his team won this year’s Central Otago champs for the first time in seven years before also claiming the Otago Country-wide title. They also finished with the White Horse Cup, the local version of the Ranfurly Shield.
“There were bad results [in recent years] but I knew we had potential, we just had to harness it,” Middleton says.
“To see the calibre of players and how much they’ve improved has been a reward.”
Middleton – who had a 10-year professional career including 58 games for the Highlanders – agrees handing the captaincy to maverick first-five Regan Pearce, who’s also stepping down, was a masterstroke.
Middleton, 38, says he’s amazed the Southland coaches, who turned up to watch a game, didn’t show more interest in the likes of player-of-the-year Marcus Balchin, most-improved player Danny King or Mark Te Whaiti.
“If players want to further their career, it’s a must to move, really.”
Middleton is confident the club has systems in place and a core of top players to continue its success.
Those systems include the introduction of blazers to recognise player milestones.
Middleton also has faith in the ability of Damian Petre, his co-coach this season, to step up.
“But I’ll certainly stay involved and turn up to the odd training,” Middleton says.
Wakatipu’s 11-game winning streak in 2012
May 12, 63-0 (Cromwell)
May 19, 47-12 (Alexandra)
May 26, 28-17 (Maniototo, White Horse Cup challenge)
June 1, 35-27 (Matakanui Combined)
June 9, 27-10 (Clyde-Earnscleugh, White Horse Cup defence)
June 16, 58-17 (Upper Clutha)
June 23, 14-11 (Arrowtown)
June 30, 45-10 (Cromwell, White Horse Cup defence)
July 14, 19-11 (Maniototo, Central Otago semi-final)
July 21, 16-5 (Arrowtown, Central Otago final)
July 28, 22-12 (Clutha Valley, Otago Country-wide final)