Huch's high hopes

Number 8 Mika Mafi on the charge for Green Island last season. Photo by Peter Mcintosh.
Number 8 Mika Mafi on the charge for Green Island last season. Photo by Peter Mcintosh.

Prospects for Green Island good this season.The Green Island Rugby Club has been in the doldrums for the past few years but is hoping to start the journey back to the glory days this winter.

The club was in the spotlight in the 1970s when it won three banners - in 1973, 1974 and 1978 - under dynamic coach Jack McLachlan.

New premier coach Motu Huch has a wide experience of Dunedin premier rugby as both a player and coach. He has been player-coach of the Otago Samoan team for the past six years and also had a stint as player-coach with Varsity B in 2007.

But this will be his first time as head coach of any team and he is relishing the challenge.

Huch started his premier playing career as a loose forward with Kaikorai in 1996 and his playing days ended last year when he played a few games at hooker for University A.

He played 171 premier games in his long career, including 74 for Kaikorai, the club in which he gained his blazer after playing 50 games.

He played for Green Island in 2006 when now All Black Ben Smith made his premier debut at first five-eighths and scored 69 points.

Other key players in the team that year were halfback Dean Moeahu and accurate goal-kicker Matt Adair, who scored 89 points.

''It was great to play with Ben Smith that year and it is fantastic to see him blossom into an All Black,'' Huch said.

Green Island finished sixth in the championship that year but has had a disappointing time since.

The club's record since then has been: 2007, ninth; 2008, ninth; 2009, 10th; 2010, ninth; 2011, 6th; 2012, 8th; and 2013, 9th.

It is not a good record in a 10-team competition.

''Green Island has had a bit of a rocky road since 2006,'' Huch said.

''We have done a bit of recruiting since November last year and it is starting to bring results.''

This has been indicated by the 20 to 24 players who have come to pre-season training on Monday and Wednesday nights.

Huch has played for different clubs during his long career and players from other Dunedin clubs are interested in joining him at Green Island.

''I have a long-term bond with a lot of the players,'' he said. Huch was not prepared to give the names of new recruits at this stage but did indicate that five new players had signed with Green Island and he was waiting for replies from three others.

''These guys have played representative rugby at some stage in their career,'' he said.

''Two have played for their country in age group rugby.''

Most of the key players from last year are back but two of the best forwards have transferred to Southern - rampaging loose forward Mika Mafi and lock Jackson Hemopo, who played for Otago last year.

''My job is to bring Green Island back to the standard it had in 2006 when I was there,'' Huch said. A big loss from last year is the retirement of Peter Pan halfback Dean Moeahu, who played 221 premier games for the club. He first played premier rugby in 1993.

The part-time assistant coach for Green Island this year is former Scottish international and former Highlanders and Otago captain John Leslie.

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