The coaching ‘Js’

The Wakatipu and Arrowtown Premiers kick off their 2024 Central Otago rugby season this afternoon with clean coaching slates.

After three years under Brett Anderson, Wakatipu — who play Cromwell away — are being helmed by former pro player Jordan Manihera.

And after two years under Simon Harper, Arrowtown — who’re at home to last year’s champs, Alexandra — are being coached by their former halfback Jackson Wallace.

Both 30, the pair are new to coaching, but are bringing new energy to their respective teams.

Auckland-raised Manihera — whose playing CV includes North Harbour, Waikato, Blues, Chiefs, Māori All Blacks and San Diego — moved 18 months ago to Queenstown, where he’s PlaceMakers’ sales manager.

He ruptured his left knee during a pre-season game for Wakatipu last season, but got a chance to coach the forwards while Anderson, who’s now club president, recovered from hip surgery.

‘‘I wouldn’t have been as confident to put my hat in the ring for the job this year if I hadn’t done that.’’

He’s driven his players ‘‘very hard’’ this pre-season, including weekend fitness ‘‘blowouts’’ and recovery lake dips.

Though they didn’t get a pre-season trial, Manihera, who’s being assisted by club stalwart Kapa Moeke, was pleased with an inter-squad trial two weekends ago, after which he named his 30-man squad.

Those not named will turn out for the Wanderers.

His co-captains are Rube Peina and Tom Ria, while a big recruit is former Moana Pasifika player Don Lolo.

He promises the team — beaten semi-finalists last year — will play ‘‘a very expansive game’’.

Coaching newbie: Arrowtown’s Jackson Wallace

Meanwhile, Wallace says he put his hand up to coach Arrowtown as he wants to give back to the club and because he enjoyed his seasons with the club — in 2019, when they won the comp, and the next year when they were runners-up.

Partly due to a lack of depth, Arrowtown finished second-last last year and won only three games.

Wallace says numbers are better this season, and he detects strength through out the team — his captain’s fullback Ryan Egerton and veteran lock Malcolm Sutherland’s vice-captain.

As to what’ll be different this season, he answers ‘‘culture, mate’’.

In the first of their two pre-season games, they travelled to Glenorchy to play Clinton.

‘‘We took a couple of vans, had a good trip back, and it’s fair to say come Tuesday they were all chirpy.’’

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● Arrowtown play Alexandra at Jack Reid Park today, and Wakatipu play Cromwell away; games start 2.30pm.

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