Bay of Plenty Steamers head coach Clayton McMillan has stacked his team with a mixture of youth, excitement and experience for this year’s Mitre 10 Cup.
Helping to win the BOP’s first major trophy in 42 years, at the 2018 Jock Hobbs Under-19 tournament, McMillan has rewarded a number of players from last year’s Under-19 team with an elevation into the Steamers squad.
In his fifth year at the helm, McMillan says this year’s squad has a good mixture of youth, enthusiasm and experience.
“Guys like halfback Leroy Carter, Lalomilo Lalomilo and a number of other players have put their hands up and have made it virtually impossible to look past them this season.”
But it’s not just the young players who will bring excitement into the side.
Dan Hollinshead makes his welcome return to the Steamers squad after a two-year overseas hiatus with French Club Agen and Japanese club Coca Cola Red Sparks.
The first-five has come back rejuvenated and excited to pass down his experience with the young guns in the backline.
McMillan says it’s not only in the backline where the coach sees young players stamping their mark in this year’s competition.
“Tevita Mafileo made his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs this year and I expect him to make an impact on the Mitre 10 Cup stage.”
Former NRL professional Abraham Papali’i is also looking to repay the faith shown by McMillan, who plucked the 1.95m, 115kg loose forward from the Auckland club rugby scene and gave him the opportunity to show his wear at a national level.
McMillan has called on former Tasman lock Alex Ainley, to apply his trade in Bay colours this season.
The 38-year-old will bring invaluable experience to the likes of young lock Stan van den Hoven in his first stint with the Steamers.
Also signed for the BOP this season is English club Harlequins’ Archie White.
The 21-year-old blindside flanker has played for England’s Under-20 squad.
One thing the Steamers won’t be short of is pace out wide. Having the likes of Chase Tiatia, Joe Webber, Joe Ravouvou and of course Emoni Narawa.
This quartet have blistering pace and Narawa’s ability to bamboozle an opponent with his right-foot step is sure to feature on a Sky Sport highlight reel.
McMillan says the squad has trained well leading up to the side’s season opener against Otago this Sunday.
Playing under the WASPS banner, McMillan got a chance to test out some combination on the weekend when they played a Game of Three Halves against Counties Manukau and Wellington at Moore Park, Katikati.
His side came away with a 24-15 loss to Wellington and an impressive 31-0 win over Counties Manukau side in front of a large vocal crowd.
The Steamers kick of their Mitre 10 Cup campaign in their first game against Otago at the Tauranga Domain on Sunday at 2.05pm.
The Steamers opening game will feature a curtain raiser between FMG Rural lX Selection and Thames Valley U16 Selection team kicking off at 12pm with gates opening at 11.30am.
Carrus is the Match Day sponsor who are supporting the Blue Light charity who work in partnership with the NZ Police to deliver a range of youth programmes and activities. Click here for more information on the Blue Light charity.
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Bay of Plenty squad:
Alex Ainley, Hugh Blake, Luke Campbell, Sam Cane, Aaron Carroll, Leroy Carter, Pryor Collier, Kurt Eklund, Chris Eves, Cole Forbes, Fa'asiu Fuatai, Mathew Skipwith-Garland, Ross Geldenhuys, Nathan Harris, Dan Hollinshead, Joe Johnston, Richard Judd, Mitchell Karpik, Lalomilo Lalomilo, Tevita Mafileo, Hoani Matenga, Tom McHugh, Ajay Mua, Emoni Narawa, Abraham Papali'i, Liam Polwart, Joe Ravouvou, Jason Robertson, Aidan Ross, Jeff Thwaites, Chase Tiatia, Kaleb Trask, Stan van den Hoven, Nathan Vella, Baden Wardlaw, Joe Webber, Archie White
2019 Steamers Management:
Head Coach: Clayton McMillan
Assistant Coaches: Mike Rogers, Marty Bourke and Mike Delany
Manager: Wayne Brill
Player Development Manager: Ati Aaifou-Olive
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach: Thomas Stebbing
Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach/GPS Analyst: Conor McNeill
Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach: Scott Joblin
Physio: Paul Cameron
Head Analyst: Koichi Kinoshita
Assistant Analyst: Hannah McDonald