Ex-AB to lace up for Wakatipu

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Former All Black star Justin Marshall will help Wakatipu rugby this season in both a coaching and playing capacity. 

Marshall – who moved to Queenstown with his family two years ago after the Christchurch earthquakes – is assistant backs coach for the Premiers. 

Despite retiring as a professional player three years ago and taking up TV commentary, the 39-year-old is also keen to get his boots back on. 

Last season Marshall helped out former head coach Kelvin Middleton – who guided the Premiers to championship glory – at the occasional training session. 

“But he never really mentioned playing, whereas ‘Dippers’ [new head coach Damian Petre] said, ‘any time that you put out on the field, it doesn’t matter if it’s 20 minutes, would be appreciated’. 

“That kind of encourages me.” 

Marshall says his involvement is important for him in view of his family’s long-term commitment to the area. 

“Whatever involvement I have in Queenstown rugby, whether it’s with my son in 10 years’ time and he’s playing for Queenstown, I don’t know, it would kind of feel cool to know that I actually played for them. 

“I’ve got to move on from rugby as well but it does still motivate me – I don’t know when that will leave my system.” 

After playing some Classics games and a club game in Christchurch last year, Marshall admits to being frustrated that his playing ability is not what it once was. 

“I’ve got to make that adjustment and try to still be competitive at this level, which will be a real challenge.” 

Meanwhile, Petre last week brought in local crossfit trainer Steve Orr to take his squad for eight sessions. 

“It gives the boys a bit more variety – and the emphasis is on getting the squad together.” 

Petre, who was Middleton’s assistant last year, says he’s excited to be head coach for the first time. 

Former Premiers prop Carrick ‘Rock’ McLellan will be his part-time assistant forwards coach and former Premiers coach Lindsay Thomas will be technical advisor. 

Following pre-season games on March 9, 16 and 23, two sides will be chosen for the Central Otago Premiers competition starting April 6. 

The Wanderers, who played in the senior reserves last year, will be Wakatipu’s second Premiers team.