Three exciting players will be making their debuts for Otago
in the national sevens tournament in Queenstown this weekend.
Michael Collins, Liam Edwards and Aleki Morris have been key
players in the Otago Boys' High School First XV at different
times over the past three years.
Collins played for New Zealand Schools in 2011, and last year
was in the winning Taieri premier club team and made his
debut for the Otago ITM Cup team.
Edwards has been a prolific scorer for the Dunedin premier
club over the past two years and made a big impact when
playing for South Canterbury in the Heartland Championship.
He topped the points scoring in the competition with 144
points, including 10 tries.
Aleki Morris was a dangerous midfield back and prolific
try-scorer in the Otago Boys' team that reached the national
final last winter. He scored 34 tries.
The other newcomers in the sevens team are rugged flanker
Gareth Evans, Adam Knight, Apelu Alapati and Peter Breen, who
had an impressive ITM Cup debut last year.
Roy Hawker lifted the performances in his first year as coach
last year when Otago narrowly lost the final to Auckland.
Otago is in a tough pool with Hawkes Bay, which won the
Central region competition, and North Harbour, runner-up in
the North region. The other team is Wairarapa-Bush. Only two
qualify for the top eight.
''Our first and only focus will be to get through the first
day,'' Hawker said.
''Hawkes Bay and North Harbour will be gunning for the top
half of the draw, as well.''
He praised the work of Otago manager Tim Colling, who had
''done a great job recruiting and looking after the local
''We have a good nucleus of local boys. We just want to give
them more confidence to believe in themselves and develop a
strong work ethic.''
The Otago captain is Paul Grant, who also captained the ITM
Cup team last season. He is an inspirational captain who
likes to lead from the front.
Hawker is pleased players like Grant, who have played at
semi-professional level, ''still want to stick around and
give it everything in the amateur game. That is the character
and quality of the players that Tony Brown and Phil Young
have been able to keep in this province''.
The key playmakers are Breen, Brad Weber, Kieran Moffat and
Matt Faddes, who all played in the national championship.
''They are classy footballers,'' Hawker said.
''But ... other guys are prepared to stand up as well. I have
confidence in all 12 players. They can all do their roles
Tony Ensor, a member of the wider Highlanders training squad,
was not released by coach Jamie Joseph to play in the
Ensor and Evans are being watched by New Zealand sevens coach
Gordon Tietjens, who was impressed by their attitude at the
last national training camp.
Paul Grant (captain), Adam Knight, Gareth Evans, Kieran
Moffat, Brad Weber, Apelu Alapati, Peter Breen, Aleki Morris,
Matt Faddes, Michael Collins, Tumua Ioane, Liam Edwards.
Otago's pool games (all tomorrow): v Wairarapa-Bush, 12.50pm;
v North Harbour, 3.30pm; v Hawkes Bay, 7.10pm.