The Bay of Plenty Steamers management have announced their 2017 Mitre 10 Cup squad for the upcoming season.
Head Coach Clayton McMillan believes they have assembled a versatile and exciting 33 man squad mixed with a worthy blend of enthusiastic debutants and experience with 24 capped players including 11 super rugby players.
“We've selected a strong, keen group of men, dotted by experience throughout and most importantly are driven to perform for their province.
“The inclusion of seven new faces, alongside the return of a few familiar faces will give us an exciting blend of youth and experience,” says McMillan.
There are 26 players returning to the Bay of Plenty Steamers who include centurion Culum Retallick and former All Black Mike Delany.
Delany has played 61 matches for the Bay of Plenty Steamers, last appearing for the side in 2010.
Seven new players will join the Bay of Plenty Steamers with nine players expecting to make their debut in the Blue and Gold hoops.
Expected debutants include hard-working Canadian forward Tyler Ardron, Opotiki local and Highlanders lock Tom Franklin, Mount Maunganui Sport's Richard Judd and Liam Steel, Whakarewarewa's James Lay and the exciting young talent in Tauranga Sports' number eight Ajay Lafaele-Mua and Greerton Marist's fullback Bailey Simonsson.
Returning players' Gallagher Chiefs' Mitchel Karpik and Manu Samoa's Jordan Lay will also expect to debut after both being side-lined last year with knee injuries.
Within the 33 man squad ten club sides are represented from across the Bay of Plenty.
“All but four players in our squad have played in the Baywide Club Rugby Competition this year including All Black Nathan Harris and majority of our Investec Super Rugby players,” says McMillan.
“The team understand the demands and challenges ahead, but we have prepared accordingly and are ready to meet those challenges head on and deliver for our Province.
“We are growing as a team and have continued to build over the past two seasons, but it is now our time to deliver for our supporters and stakeholders and I believe we have the team to do that.”
“As the professional game continues to grow each Mitre 10 Cup campaign provides us with the opportunity to show case a number of young talented athletes immersed with experienced campaigners," says Bay of Plenty Rugby Union's CEO Mike Rogers.
“Not only does the Mitre 10 Cup provide the community with some fantastic rugby, it allows us to show our true colours with exciting match ups against traditional rivals such as Hawke's Bay and Waikato. I know I can't wait to see what our team can do.”
In addition to the 33 named in the 2017 Bay of Plenty Steamers Squad, eight players have been called in to assist during the pre-season campaign as cover for returning Investec Super Rugby players and injury cover.
These players include Rotoiti's Captain Bayden Wardlaw, Paroa's blindside flanker Mone Funaki, Greerton Marist's illusive number eight Savelio Ropati, Arataki's first five eight Reece Macdonald, Whakarewarewa's talented centre Matt Garland, Greerton Marist's backline duo of Atu and Luke Masirewa and All Blacks Sevens representative Joe Webber.
These players will be available for selection for the upcoming Bay of Plenty Pro 4 Series.
2017 Bay of Plenty Steamers Squad: Hookers: Nathan Harris – Te Puke Sports (26), Liam Polwart (6) – Greerton Marist, James O'Reilly – Te Puke Sports (9), Sabastian Siataga – Mount Maunganui (9)
Props: Siegfried Fisi'ihoi – Rotoiti (28), James Lay* – Whakarewarewa, Jordan Lay* – Whakarewarewa, Aidan Ross – Te Puke Sports (14), Solomona Sakalia – Mount Maunganui (28), Jeff Thwaites – Te Puna (11)
Locks: Troy Callander – Greerton Marist (12), Tom Franklin* – Opotiki, Keepa Mewett – Tauranga Sports (24), Culum Retallick – Tauranga Sports (103)
Loose Forwards: Tyler Ardron* - Papamoa, Hugh Blake* – Te Puke Sports (8), Sam Cane – Tauranga Sports (19), Mitchell Karpik* – Rangataua, Ajay Lafaele-Mua* - Tauranga Sports, Jesse Parete – Rangataua (10), Henry Stowers – Arataki (10)
Half backs: Luke Campbell – Te Puke Sports (4), Richard Judd* – Mount Maunganui Sports
First five-eights: Mike Delany – Mount Maunganui Sports (61), Kelly Haimona – Whakarewarewa (25)
Midfield backs: Lalakai Foketi – Rangataua (18), Terrence Hepetema – Te Puna (7), Liam Steel* – Mount Maunganui Sports
Outside backs: Monty Ioane – Greerton Marist (11), Elijah Nicholas – Te Puna (7), Bailey Simonsson* – Greerton Marist, Chase Tiatia – Rangataua (14), Isaac Te Aute – Mount Maunganui (11) Lars Morrice – Te Puke Sports not considered due to injury.
Steamers Management: Head Coach: Clayton McMillan Assistant Coach: Rodney Gibbs Assistant Coach: David Hill Campaign Manager: Wayne Brill Operations Manager: Brett Johnson Strength and Conditioning Trainer: Brad Mayo Physiotherapist: Craig Newland Doctor: Ebrahim Solomon Video Analyst: Mark Roberts *Denotes Steamers debut () Denotes Steamers caps
Bay of Plenty Steamers Pre-Season Draw: Steamers vs. Waikato at Beathem Park, Hamilton – Saturday 12 August, 2.30pm
Bay of Plenty Steamers 2017 Mitre 10 Cup Draw Week 1: vs Northland at Toll Stadium, Whangarei – Sunday 20 August, 2.35pm
Week 2: vs Hawkes Bay at Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua – Friday 25 August, 5.45pm
Week 3: vs Wellington at Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua – Thursday 31 August, 7.35pm
Week 4: vs Manawatu at Central Energy Trust Arena, Palmerston North – Friday 8 September, 7.45pm
Week 5: vs Taranaki at Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth– Friday 15 September, 7.45pm
Week 6: vs Southland at Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua – Wednesday 20 September, 7.35pm
Week 6: vs Counties Manukau at Tauranga Domain, Tauranga – Sunday 24 September, 2.35pm
Week 7: vs Auckland at Eden Park, Auckland – Saturday 30 September, 5.05pm
Week 8: vs Otago at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin – Saturday 7 October, 2.35pm
Week 9: vs Waikato at Tauranga Domain, Tauranga – Saturday 14 October, 2.35pm
Semi-finals: Friday 20 October – Sunday 22 October
Finals: Friday 27 October and Saturday 28 October Home games for 2017: Hawkes Bay, Wellington, Southland, Counties Manukau, and Waikato Away games for 2017: Northland, Manawatu, Taranaki, Auckland, and Otago