Highlanders forced to fill injury gaps

The Highlanders have been hard hit by injury this year. Photo: Getty Images
The Highlanders have been hard hit by injury this year. Photo: Getty Images
The Highlanders have lost plenty of players to injury this season and more reinforcements have come in.

It seemed as if after nearly every game in the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, players would go down with an injury and more often that not it would be a season-ending one.

That has led to some holes in the squad and they have been filled throughout the season with backs such as Josh Timu and Josh Moorby coming into the squad.

The changes are continuing as the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition comes along. It is five games in five weeks and a couple of trips to Australia so a fully fit squad will be needed.

Coming into the side is former Maniototo junior Tim O’Malley. O’Malley was brought up in Paerau, in Maniototo, and attended St Kevin’s College. He has had a varied career, making his first class debut for North Otago in 2012. He then went to Bay of Plenty for three seasons but never cemented a place in the first-class side.

O’Malley (26) then moved to Picton in 2016 to play for Tasman. He was loaned to Southland but recalled before the start of the representative season. He has also played in Japan and the United States and was set to play in the United States this year but the deal fell over. He has played 38 games for Tasman but has not played at Super Rugby level.

He comes into the side in place of Caleb Makene, who had injured a knee and gone back to Hawke’s Bay.

Also joining the side is Hawke’s Bay loose forward Solomone Funaki. He is a bruising player, who covers all three loose forward positions.

With Liam Squire (knee) and Marino Mikaele-Tu’u (leg stress fracture) gone for the season, a reinforcement was needed. Funaki was a star for Hawke’s Bay at the end of last season as the side won the Mitre 10 Cup championship.

Big winger Timoci Tavatavanawai has joined the side for the rest of the season, covering the injured Connor Garden-Bachop (broken wrist).

Tavatavanawai, a former Fijian under-20 player, actually turned out for the Crusaders in a pre-season game against the Highlanders in February in Temuka. He scored two tries that day.

He looked sharp when playing for Southern in a club game at Bathgate Park last Saturday.

Hawke’s Bay utility back Neria Fomai has also joined the squad after a spell with the Blues earlier this season. He has taken the place of Solomon Alaimalo, who is on leave for personal reasons.

Otago prop Saula Mau has also been involved with the side over the past few weeks. Prop Daniel Lienert-Brown broke his arm in March and may be back near the end of the competition.


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