'Plenty of banter’ helps get players to practice

All ready to head to Oamaru for one of the last times this season are (from left) Jacob Coghlan,...
All ready to head to Oamaru for one of the last times this season are (from left) Jacob Coghlan, Mike Williams, Woody Kirkwood, Josh Hayward, Josh Clark, Mike Mata’afa and Charles Elton. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
The 1997 Nissan Elgrand must struggle going up the Kilmog. But where there is a will there is a way as the trusty vehicle carts some hefty rugby players up the island.

The van, provided by Oamaru company Smash Pal­ace, is used by Dunedin-based players in the North Otago side, which is set to take on Wanganui in the Meads Cup final in Oamaru tomorrow.

Every Tuesday and Thurs­day the players meet about 5pm near the North Ground to get into the van and drive up to Oamaru for training. They make a similar trip on a Satur­day when the side is playing at home.

Loose forward Josh Clark, who is one of the regular drivers, said travelling up State Highway 1 to Oamaru was never a chore.

‘‘There is always plenty of banter going on - guys ripping into each other about what club is stealing what players, who is going where,’’ he said.

‘‘It never gets boring. It is an hour and 20 minutes. That may seem long but there are a lot of guys who play and coach in the Heartland competition who travel a hell of a lot longer.’’

Clark said there had been a couple of speeding tickets but nothing too bad.

‘‘She goes pretty well. Gets us from A to B. The music the guys pick can be a bit of a mixture but nothing too bad.’’

The players get back into Dunedin about 10.30pm after practice and a couple of stops for food.

Clark and a few others have been doing the drive for the club season, too. Along with Clark making the trip north are loan players Mike Wil­liams, Charles Elton and Woody Kirkwood.

Others on the regular road trip are Jacob Coghlan, Mike Mata’afa and Josh Hayward.

Coghlan is a player of origin while the others live in Dun­edin but play club rugby in North Otago.

Clark will be venturing fur­ther than Oamaru next month as he has just been named in the Heartland squad - one of five North Otago players named.

He will be joined by props Ralph Darling and Meli Kolinisau, fullback Patrick Pati and halfback Robbie Smith.

The 25-strong side will play New Zealand Marist in Te Aroha on November 2 and then head to Fiji to play two Fijian sides the following week.



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