Jono Entwhistle, left and Shane Tinetti have been selected to play Gridiron for New Zealand later this year. Photo: Andrew Board.

Locals make NZ Gridiron team


You could excuse Shane Tinetti and Jono Entwhistle for feeling like the odd couple at training at Jubilee Park over the last few months.

While Waimea Old Boys rugby players have been scrumming, kicking and passing (backwards) at training, on the cold winter nights, Shane and Jono have been practising their snapping, sacking and rushing as they prepare for the biggest games of their careers.

That’s because the two Nelson Honeybadgers players have been selected for two national American football teams to play internationals later this year.

Shane and Jono have been named in the national flag, or touch, team to play in the world champs in the Bahamas in September, while Jono will also play for the Steelblacks against American Samoa in the full contact version of the game in Auckland next month.

They have been training together “in a corner at Jubilee Park” to prepare for the games, in between trips to Auckland to join their team-mates at national training camps.

“We train at Jubilee Park because it has lights and the Waimea Old Boys guys are good enough to let us have a corner of the park to do our own thing,” Shane says. “We’ve also been going up to Auckland every second or third weekend to train, so it’s been a big commitment.”

Shane, who plays defensive back, says it’s a huge honour to be named in national teams and he’s hoping that their selection will help lift the profile of American football in Nelson. The Nelson Honeybadgers have about 30 players at present and play in a 10-a-side flag competition at Tahunanui from October to December.

“We’ve had an American football competition going for about a year in Nelson so it’s still new,” Shane says. “We have a real mix of guys – rugby players, hockey player and football players – and try and play in the summer so we don’t clash with rugby and league.

“It’s just flag at the moment because you can have guys and girls and a mix of ages playing, which helps get more people involved. It also costs around $500 to gear guys up for contact so it’s easier to start with flag, but once we get up and running we’ll look at a tackle team.”

Jono, who plays quarter back, says he has been playing for more than a decade and has had a few injuries in his time. “My very first [tackle] game, my very first snap five years ago in Wellington, I got my ankle broken after I was sacked.

“Then, a few years later, I was playing in Hawaii for the Southern Cross All Stars, which was a mix of Australia and New Zealand, and eight plays in I got carried off the field after my running back missed a block and I got lit up.”

Jono says he likes the sport because of how specialised it is. “Different body shapes and sizes have different positions and it’s a chess match of a game. The complexities are really intriguing. It’s an unselfish sport.”

The Steelblacks game against American Samoa will be played at Auckland on July 16.