Walden thriving as season evolves

Otago second five-eighth Tei Walden takes a pass during training at the Edgar Centre earlier this...
Otago second five-eighth Tei Walden takes a pass during training at the Edgar Centre earlier this week. Photo: Peter McIntosh
It has been a season to remember for Tei Walden — but he does not want it to end yet.

Walden (24) was in the starting XV for the Highlanders when they beat the British and Irish Lions on a memorable night in June at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The next month, he helped Southern to the Dunedin club banner, beating Harbour in the final.

Earlier this week, after an impressive season for Otago, he picked up the David Latta Trophy, voted the top player by his peers. He now gets to take on Bay of Plenty in the Mitre 10 Cup Championship semifinal in Tauranga today.

Walden said he had strung  together some good performances.

"Just for me it is about getting some consistent time on the paddock. And I’m really enjoying my footy at the moment," he said.

"It’s a good bunch of boys and we have really embraced the whole season. When you look at it the core of the team have been together for about five years now.

"We have evolved that style, that Otago style —   good, quick ball, and a fast game. Everyone just understands their role and what has to be done.‘‘I think that is where preparation is so important. Just in the week leading up to the game everyone just needs to know what has to be done, what they exactly have to do."

Walden said the season had gone quickly and said the title win for Southern was a great feeling.

"Again, we just had a good bunch of guys, who really came together off the field. Everyone bought into what we were trying to do, just as much off the field as on it."

His defence has been top-notch for the Otago side this season, and he said the team would have to be on the ball against a Bay of Plenty team which  had plenty of talent.

"We have talked this week about making opportunities and taking them with both hands. About winning those little battles, keeping calm and playing what we know best."

The former New Zealand Colt said he was pleased to win the David Latta Trophy. To be voted for by your peers was always a special thrill.

He captained Otago against Wellington this year with regular skipper Sam Anderson-Heather sidelined.

"It was a huge honour to be named captain. It was pretty cool for myself. But we have got a group of leaders in our team so it makes it a pretty easy job for me. I just try and make my voice heard."

Walden is near the end of a  degree in geography and Maori but it is on the back burner at the moment.

He started up ABC rugby camps for children in the school holidays and is busy with them. He has signed up for another year with the Highlanders.

His brother, Josh, who captained Southern this year, has moved to Hong Kong and signed a two-year deal with the Tigers club.

Today’s game shapes  as being the closest of the four semifinals and will come down to composure and defence.

Otago needs to play its own game, not let Bay of Plenty run, and keep up its domination at scrum time. Fine weather is forecast for Tauranga today.

Tei Walden has played 45 games for Otago, not 34 games as reported in the newspaper on Wednesday. Incorrect information was supplied.


Otago v Bay of Plenty
Tauranga, today, 2.35pm

Otago: Matt Faddes, Mitchell Scott, Sio Tomkinson, Tei Walden, Latu Vaeno, Josh Ioane, Jono Ruru, Sione Teu, Dillon Hunt, Adam Knight, Josh Dickson, Blair Tweed, Donald Brighouse, Sam Anderson-Heather (captain), Craig Millar. Reserves: Sekonaia Pole, Aki Seiuli, Hisa Sasagi, Josh Furno, Slade McDowall, Josh Renton, Fletcher Smith, Vilimoni Koroi.

Bay of Plenty: Chase Tiatia, Monty Ioane, Lalakai Foketi, Terrence Hepetema, Joe Webber, Mike Delany, Richard Judd, Jesse Parete, Hugh Blake, Mitch Karpik, Troy Callander, Keepa Mewett (captain), Jeff Thwaites, Liam Polwart, Aidan Ross. Reserves: James O’Reilly, Jordan Lay, James Lay, Tyler Ardron, Henry Stowers, Luke Campbell, Matt Garland, Elijah NicholasReferee: Brendon Pickerill (North Harbour)

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