Banks' job just to keep ball going forward

Marty Banks (front) and Ben Smith point the way forward at Highlanders training at Logan Park...
Marty Banks (front) and Ben Smith point the way forward at Highlanders training at Logan Park yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Start the engine - the instructor is back in the driver's seat.

Marty Banks is now the man to lead the Highlanders around the field when they take on the Blues in Auckland tonight.

His promotion into the starting XV was a step up from what he was expecting.

"I guess it is a little bit different. You have a different number on the back of the jersey. But it is exciting," Banks said yesterday.

"When I came back from Japan, I thought I would just be a guide and help the younger guys out, Joshy and Bryner [Josh Ioane and Bryn Gatland] so to get a crack and drive the team round the park is something I've wanted to do and something I've wanted to do pretty much all of my career."

Banks (29) said he did not think about the starting role too much and just wanted to keep it low-key.

"My role is to keep the boys in the right part of the field. Just to get the ball into the guys' hands - our outside backs and the midfield.

"Just keep our forwards going forward. My job is normally pretty easy, just keep the ball going forward."

He said playing outside halfback Aaron Smith was a huge advantage.

"Nuggy [Smith] takes a lot of heat off my shoulders and the whole team's shoulders. He has got a big mouth - some people love it and some people hate it.

"But personally it is awesome for the team. He directs the forwards and I direct the backs and hopefully it gels well together and has gone well for the team."

Banks said Smith's bullet passing was a huge help.

"It just gives that split second more with the ball. And that split second with the defence being quite dominant in the games, gives me some more time with the ball. As a 10 it does make a big difference ... a massive difference with time on the ball."

Banks (29) spent plenty of time with new Blues coach Leon MacDonald when he was playing for Tasman and has huge respect for him.

In some ways it is logical Banks is back in the pivot position.

He was a key man for the Highlanders in 2017, when he started at first five-eighth in nine games and came off the bench six other times.

He has enjoyed a cult status with the Highlanders and will further cement that by playing well tonight.

It has been an unusual past week for the Highlanders after their game was called off last Saturday. They have had to get through that and then fire up for a game which comes before their bye next week.

There is a chance of showers in Auckland tonight.

Highlanders v Blues

Eden Park, today, 7.35pm

Highlanders: Ben Smith (co-captain), Waisake Naholo, Sio Tomkinson, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Tevita Li, Marty Banks, Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock (co-captain), Dillon Hunt, Shannon Frizell, Tom Franklin, Pari Pari Parkinson, Tyrel Lomax, Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone. Reserves: Ray Niuia, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siate Tokolahi, Josh Dickson, Jackson Hemopo, Folau Fakatava, Josh Ioane, Richard Buckman.

Blues: Melani Nanai, Tanielu Tele’a, TJ Faiane, Ma’a Nonu, Rieko Ioane, Harry Plummer, Jonathan Ruru, Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson, Tom Robinson, Josh Goodhue, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Sione Mafileo, James Parsons, Alex Hodgman. Reserves: Leni Apisai, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Karl Tuinukuafe, Patrick Tuipolotu, Dalton Papalii, Augustine Pulu, Otere Black, Levi Aumua/Matt Duffie.

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)


 

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