Arrowtown’s White Horse Cup-winning performance was propped up by an ex-Wakatipu rugby player who was unfit, injured and thought he’d retired.
Paul Tait, 32, who moved to Arrowtown a year ago but didn’t play last season, says he’d offered to hold a tackle bag at training but never intended a comeback this season.
However, the team’s been short in the front row this term, and after Tait contributed 80 minutes to its 18-15 away win over Alexandra last Saturday, coach Blair Wilce made him player of the day.
Wilce: “Alexandra’s forward pack was their strength but we dominated in the forwards and [Tait] was probably a big part of that.”
The 120kg tighthead prop played with a sore shoulder and confesses his fitness was “tragic”.
“That’s the hardest game of footie I’ve played for a long time.”
Formerly he played about 40 games for the Wakatipu Premiers and in 2005/06 turned out for a winning club side in Edinburgh, Scotland.
After the Alexandra game, former Arrowtown coach Richie Anderson says he ribbed Tait: “I said to him, you look good in red – a big smile came across his face.
“It’s good to see the mark in the sand can sometimes be covered over.”
Wilce, who says his main emphasis was celebrating lock Jim O’Malley’s 100th game, believes winning the White Horse Cup was “probably the easy bit”.
The team now has to defend it at home against the competition’s three other strongest teams – unbeaten Upper Clutha this Saturday, Wakatipu on May 2 and Maniototo on May 9.
Premiers: Arrowtown v Upper Clutha, 2.45, Jack Reid Park, Arrowtown; Wakatipu v Maniototo, 2.45pm, Ranfurly.
Seniors: Wakatipu v Upper Clutha, Rec Ground, 2.45pm
Why it’s gotta be Wakatipu…
Les Nelson says: Wakatipu have got a better coaching structure this year – Lindsay Thomas is a good team man, they’ve got Clark Frew, and Kelvin Middleton is giving them a hand, and probably because of the personnel involved they’ve attracted some good players.
I think they’ll beat Maniototo this Saturday but it’s always a long bus trip to get there. Maniototo lost to Upper Clutha last weekend and so did we in the first round, but I think we would have beaten them if we didn’t have a few injuries.
Arrowtown (on May 2) will be a close game as they’ve proved a very competitive side in the last few years. It certainly won’t be a big win one way or the other.
My tip: Wakatipu by 5 or 6
Why it’s gotta be Arrowtown…
Simon Spark says: We’ve been the underdogs for so long, it’s nice to be on top for a change. We’ve got a good core of players who’ve had a year or two now so they know how each other plays.
Having the White Horse Cup is something pretty new for us – how we’re going to deal with that is up to the coaching staff.
Upper Clutha (on Saturday) will be a very tough game to start with – I think they are probably the second top team in the competition to us.
The Wakatipu game (on May 2) will be a typical local derby and I would back Arrowtown – I always do – but not by much.
My tip: Arrowtown by 8 to 10