Green Island's big turnaround

Dylan Nel. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Dylan Nel. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Two years ago Green Island survived a promotion-relegation match. Tomorrow it will play Harbour for the Speight's Jug.

It is quite a turnaround and few have more at stake than coach Dean Moeahu.

The former halfback played 223 games for Green Island from 1995 to 2015 and then promptly took up coaching.

He moved the Grizzlies from whipping boys to giant killers in his first season at the helm.

The turnaround in 2016 offered hope, but 2017 was another disappointing year for the club. It finished last and had to see off a challenge from West Taieri.

Last year was promising, but a lack of bonus points held the team back from climbing further up the standings.

This year Green Island has helped set the benchmark. It is the competition joint leader alongside Harbour after seven rounds.

As luck would have it, the two teams are scheduled to play at Miller Park tomorrow. The winner will top the standings midway through the round-robin stage and claim the Speight's Jug.

It would mean a lot to Moeahu. He has been instrumental in the team's transition from hapless to hopeful.

"Because I'm a local Green Island guy, there is more pride than anything else," Moeahu said.

"I'm very proud of where we have come as a group. It has been a bit of a journey.

"We've gone from promotion-relegation to giving ourselves an opportunity."

And he is proud of the way the club has got there. Moeahu swatted off speculation Green Island has used financial incentives to build a more competitive team.

"We've always been big on the guy sitting next to you getting the same as you get - and what you get is nothing but an opportunity to play premier rugby.

"We want guys to put their hand up. If you come and you're prepared to work hard, then we can reap the rewards. If you come with your hand out, you are of no value to us at all."

Otago No8 Dylan Nel has been the embodiment of that ethos. He has linked up with Green Island this year and his presence at the boot of the scrum has been huge.

He rarely fails to get the ball across the advantage line, but it his leadership and contribution off the field which has had just as much impact, Moeahu said.

"Nothing is ever half-hearted. Everything he does is done with purpose and that has been a great learning curve for a lot of our young guys to see how a guy of that calibre approaches the game."

Outside back Isaak Te Hiwi is having a tremendous rookie season. He was a star for Otago Boys' High School last year and has brought that form into the premier grade.

His goal-kicking is a wonderful asset and he has pace and nimble footwork.

Loose forward Brett Kingsbury and lock Woody Kirkwood never shirk the hard work, and Southland midfielder Raymond Nu'u has carved through gap after gap.

It has been winning combination.

In the other games, Alhambra-Union will have a challenge against a wounded University side at the North Ground. University was upset 19-15 by Dunedin last weekend.

Dunedin will host Taieri at Kettle Park and Southern plays Kaikorai at Bathgate Park.


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