Rugby: Latta itching for shield game

Otago lock Joe Latta trains at Logan Park yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien
Otago lock Joe Latta trains at Logan Park yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien
After 16 months on the sidelines it is not surprising Joe Latta has a spring in his step - although he describes it more like an unbalanced canine.

Latta (23) had a standout game against North Harbour in his Otago debut last Saturday at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The lock ripped into his work and got round the field in the Otago victory.

The Owaka product said it was a game he enjoyed, although he still had plenty to work on.

''I loved it. It was an absolutely awesome game, the first game for the Otago and at home,'' he said.

''For a first hit-out I was not too bad. I was pretty happy. For me I was a bit like a three-legged dog, trying to follow the rest of the pack around. I probably need a bit of fitness to work on and get better ball-carrying and handling.''

Latta is a true, blue Otago man.

His father, John, played 66 games as a prop for Otago in the 1980s. Joe said his father still gave him some pointers - not that he took much notice.

''He is a bit old school and things have changed a bit since he played footy in the '80s. He always gives a bit of advice to me but it is mostly criticism.''

Latta went to Otago Boys' High School, and finished his schooling off with a year at Wellington College.

''I was not too sure what I was going to do when I left school. My dad's brother lives up there so I went and stayed with my auntie and uncle and cousins.

''It was a different type of rugby, a bit more physical. You are on the radar a bit more in the capital . . . I managed to squeak into the [national] school teams and then got a development contract with Wellington and that worked out well. I had a couple of games for the Lions, made my ITM Cup debut but only off the bench.''

But it all went a bit wrong at the end of 2012 which had him off the field for nearly a year and a-half.

''I tore a bit of cartilage around the hip and had to have a bit of the bone shaved off. I had the whole of last year off. I had to wait to have the operation and then a nine-month recovery.

''I missed the season but it was probably good for me as it gave me a bit more desire to kick on with footy and that . . . Just gave me a bit more hunger. I went back home to Owaka and worked for six months and then did an OE for six weeks and then came back here.''

This season was about becoming enthusiastic about the game again and playing well for his club side, Zingari-Richmond.

''I was just really keen to get back into it after having a year off. It was not too bad. Over the summer I ran [a lot] back home, and up here in Dunedin.

''The club season with Zingari went well - we got a few wins on the board. We finished with four in a row which was good.''

The club season is finished and the focus switches to Otago and the Ranfurly Shield challenge this Saturday against Counties-Manukau.

''It is a massive game this week, a Ranfurly Shield challenge. It does not get much better . . . Counties-Manukau are going to be a big physical team and at home they are going to be pumped up.

''We've just got to stick to our guns and our patterns - take our chances when they come.''


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