Club rugby: Who’s at the coaching helm

Mike Rowe (left) and Doug Maginness will join forces again for Southbridge after a successful...
Mike Rowe (left) and Doug Maginness will join forces again for Southbridge after a successful stint between 2016 and 2019. Right – Simon Fitzgerald will aim to lead Prebbleton to a second successive Ellesmere title. Photo: Gill Happer
The club rugby season starts in 11 weeks. Sports reporter Sam Coughlan looks at who the coaches are for the Coleman Shield and Combined Country competitions

Jamie Baird will coach Rolleston’s division 1 side this season as the team goes alone after their short-term merger with Lincoln. Baird has a long-time history with the club and coached the Rolleston colts in 2011 and 2012. The division 1 side will be a family affair with Baird’s wife, Jo, as the team’s manager and their son Mitchell playing hooker. Baird takes over from Xade Halbert-Pere who held the reins during Rolleston’s last standalone season in 2022. The Lincoln-Rolleston combined side was coached by Bevan Sisson last year. The Luisetti Combined Country competition starts on April 6.

Bevan Sisson has stepped down as head coach due to work commitments, to be replaced by former colts coach Tim Nuthall as the lead of a coaching group of four. Nuthall will be joined by Jodie Smith, Matt Lowe and Jason Pietzner, while Sisson will help out behind the scenes when he can, which just missed out on reaching the Coleman Shield semi-finals last year. The combined Lincoln-Rolleston side 2023 finishing places: Coleman Shield 5th; combined country 16th 

Simon Fitzgerald will aim to lead Prebbleton to a second-successive Ellesmere title. Photo: Supplied
Simon Fitzgerald will aim to lead Prebbleton to a second-successive Ellesmere title. Photo: Supplied
The Penguins nearly did the double in 2023, losing to Ashburton Celtic in the combined country final but getting up over Waihora in the Coleman Shield final. Simon Fitzgerald is staying in place as head coach and director of rugby. 2023 finishing places: Coleman Shield 1st; combined country 2nd

Former Glasglow Warriors and Utah Warriors player Hagen Schulte takes the top job at Waihora after being an assistant last year. He replaces former head coach Ross Soper, who is taking a break from coaching. The Magpies suffered two heartbreaking playoff losses in 2023, reaching the semi-finals of the combined competition and making it all the way to the Coleman Shield final. First-five Harry Peeters returns after missing the 2023 season but the team have lost players, with lock Charlie Kinney and flanker Ben McLeod moving to Auckland for work. 2023 finishing places: Coleman Shield 2nd; combined country 3rd

Mike Rowe returns to the club he enjoyed success at between 2016 and 2019 as head coach, joining veteran assistant Doug Maginness who will coach his 150th division 1 game in the season’s opener. Rowe won four trophies in his first stint at the club and will be looking to improve a Southbridge team that, led by Reece Allan, went down by one point in the Coleman Shield semi-finals last year. Rowe said the team will be largely the same as last year but it will be difficult to tell until pre-season starts later this month. 2023 finishing places: Coleman Shield 3rd; combined country 15th

Chris Lea and Steven Devereux are the new co-coaches of the team, taking over from Mervyn Todd, who guided Darfield to the semi-finals of the Coleman Shield last season before losing to eventual winners Prebbleton. Lea is a former division 2 coach at the club and is returning from a year off, while Devereux coached Hornby last season – but lives in Darfield and was previously commuting for coaching. Prop Hamish Pauling, 36, has retired after 184 division 1 games for the club. 2023 finishing places: Coleman Shield 4th; combined country 10th

West Melton
Co-coaches Mike James and former Crusader and All Black Tim Perry will stay with the squad after a solid season last year. The team upset Darfield away from home to finish ninth in the combined competition and backed it up with sixth in the Coleman Shield. 2023 finishing places: Coleman Shield 6th; combined competition 9th

There are few changes for Springston, with Andrew Foster staying in charge for 2024. The team finished second from the bottom in their combined country pool but beat Hornby in a playoff for 17th. They were second-bottom in the Ellesmere competition. Foster said the team are looking at a couple of overseas options to bolster their roster. 2023 finishing places: Coleman Shield 7th; combined competition 17th

Wayne Hemmingson takes the reins by himself for Hornby after co-coaching with Devereux last year, who is now with Darfield. The Red Devils last year celebrated their first division 1 win in more than 1400 days when they beat Oxford in the combined country competition, and followed it up by beating Springston later in the season. Hemmingson said the club will look to shore up the squad with overseas recruits. “We’ve got three guys coming in from Fiji and hopefully someone from the UK . . . that’ll help us an awful lot,” he said. 2023 competition places: Coleman Shield 8th; combined country 18th

By Sam Coughlan