The loose forwards look to be an area of strenth for the Nelson rugby team in 2017. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport.

Props in demand as club rugby season looms

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Marist is keen to ensure they go one better this year as the 2017 senior rugby season gets underway this weekend.

Last year’s Car Company Nelson Bays division one runners-up have kept a core of their playing roster, which lost the final to Wanderers by two points last year, and are keen to get back to the decider to avenge their loss.

Marist coach Anthony Holder says the team does have some early season injuries to contend with over the opening round of the combined NPD Tasman Trophy competition, which begins the season.

“We’ll be missing a few key guys early but I think, overall, the team is shaping up well.

“We got close last year and just missed out.

Midfielder James Hawkey is one young player returning and who is keen for higher honours.

James was pivotal with his accurate goal kicking and direction in the backline last year and is set to play a key role at second five.

“James was one of our best last year and I know he’s keen to push for higher honours.

“He’s a really nice kid and you can tell he’s put a lot of effort in at the gym.”

Nelson won the Tasman Trophy last year after their injuries were overcome and they really hit their stride through the middle and late part of the campaign.

Assistant coach Chris Pugh says the loose forwards will be an area of strength, but like most of the other teams, a lack of props is a worry.

Kahurangi coach Chris Binns says he wants his team to be competitive and pushing for a semi-final spot.

He says the forwards will again be a strength this year and, if they can limit injuries, they will pose a hard challenge for any team.

Stoke will look to be contenders this year with a lot of youth and experience combined in their backline.

Coach Graeme Pitman, who steps up from the Bs this year, says the club has worked hard on improving its culture and that should show through.

Waimea Old Boys coach Mark Milne returns, but the club itself has a fresh direction and approach.

The returns of Pacific internationals Jeff Lepa and Dan Hytongue are sure to be crucial while James Lash could prove pivotal in the nine or 10 jersey.

Wanderers will be the team to beat but will be without Trael Joass and Tone Ng Shiu who are both on national sevens duty.

This Saturday, Marist host Waimea Old Boys at Tahunanui, Nelson welcome Stoke to Neale Park and Wanderers will face Kahurangi at Brightwater Domain.

All matches start at 3pm and all games double up as Nelson Bays Division One and Tasman Trophy fixtures to begin the new season and ensure things start with a bang.