Former Tasman Makos halfback Shawn Begg will captain Marist in this year’s senior rugby competition. Photo: Phillip Rollo.

Marist return to top flight

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A well recruited Marist will return to the top tier of club rugby this year, and their new captain is confident they can hit the ground running.

Halfback Shawn Begg will captain “The Green Machine” in their returning season, having dropped out of the Nelson Bays division one competition last year due to insufficient player numbers.

Marist have perennially been one of the strongest teams in Nelson, and won the last of their seven senior rugby title just three years ago.

With a raft of player departures robbing the competition of one of its top teams in the 2013 season, Marist coaches Nick Bright and Callum Taylor have smartly recruited a mixture of youth and experience ahead of the coming campaign, which kicks off this Saturday.

Shawn, who played his junior rugby at Marist, before spending eight years with Stoke, will lead a team that also includes championship winning flanker Dan Hytongue, who arrives from Waimea Old Boys, exciting fullback Latham Jones, and young utility Lote Saulekaleka from Nayland College.

Shawn, a former Tasman Mako, chose to move across to Marist because he was getting “stale” at Stoke and had achieved all he could with the club. “I played all my JAB at Marist, and I’ve always respected the club and the players who have been here before. They’ve had a lot of superstars really, guys like Mark Bright, and it was something new to get me excited about rugby.”

After an injury-ridden season prevented Shawn from cracking the Tasman squad last year, he has set the goal of returning to ITM Cup in 2014 – and hopes strong performances with Marist will help him achieve that.

“Obviously a change of scenery will hopefully light up more of a fire,” he says.

“I just want to play the best I can and be the best I can. But looking at the way that [Tasman] forward pack was playing I’d love to be playing behind that. It was hard watching but I’d love to be back in that environment.”

Marist’s return means the Car Company Division One championship is back up to a full complement of six teams. They will face last year’s finalists Wanderers in Brightwater this Saturday while Stoke travel to Riwaka to play Kahurangi and Nelson are at home to Waimea Old Boys. All games kick off at 3pm.