The Arrowtown Premiers rugby coach – missing a whopping 16 players from last year – is pinning hopes on a youthful squad.
The team, Central Otago runners-up for the past three years, opens its season this Saturday with a home game against Alexandra.
Coach Hayden Finch says: “We’ve got a very tough game first up. They gave us a bit of a shock when we drew 26-all with them in Alexandra last season.
“We’ll really see where we’re at and where we need to get better after Saturday’s game.”
Finch says the team will particularly miss Daniel Dodds, Nathan Pullar and Aidan Winter who all played at least 100 games for Arrowtown before quitting after last season.
“We’re a very youthful team this year.”
Experienced backs like Nick Lynch, Shane Clearwater, Izzy Narolaga and Kane Dodds plus forwards like John Morrison and new captain Ben Chisholm have to step up, Finch says.
The coach is also delighted forwards Troy Walmhurst and Richard Andrews are back after several years’ absence.
Of 18 newcomers, Fynch singles out midfielder Wesley Tufuga, from Wellington, ex-Southland Country lock Richard Lee and loosie Adam Hubber from Dunedin’s Southern club as exciting prospects.
The team is desperately short of backs, Finch says.
“This season’s very long, you could end up playing 18 games so we’ll need to use all of this squad and more – we’ll have to call on some of the local oldies to help out at some stage.
“The thing we’re trying to build this year is a great Arrowtown culture like we’ve had. We’ve got a great bunch of guys that are really keen to give back to Arrowtown and make it a really good culture in the club – that’s why Wakatipu went well last year.”
Finch says the team’s goal is again to make the semis – “then see what happens from there”.
SATURDAY’S DRAW: Arrowtown v Alexandra, Arrowtown, 2.30pm; Matakanui Combined v Wakatipu, Omakau, 2.30pm; Maniototo v Wakatipu Wanderers, Ranfurly, 2.30pm