Five of the region’s best and brightest young rugby players will join the Bay of Plenty Steamers’ wider squad ahead of the 2021 season.
Officials have confirmed that Lucas Cashmore, Veveni Lasaqa, Josh Bartlett, Nikora Broughton and Kane O’Connor have all signed on with the Steamers ahead of this year’s campaign.
“When I heard the news, I wasn’t expecting it at all,” says 18-year-old front-rower Josh Bartlett.
“I was stoked. I love my footy and have always been a proud Bay boy. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
Excitement and surprise were common themes among all of the new signings when they were asked about how they took the news.
With ages ranging from 18-20 years, all five rising stars are understandably eager to get amongst the thick of the action and learn as much from the opportunity as possible.
“I'm excited and ready to learn a lot from the senior players,” says 19-year-old first-five Lucas Cashmore.
“Especially the likes of Otere Black and Kaleb Trask - they are players I look up to, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from them.
“I’m there to give it my best shot and soak up as much of the experience as I can.”
The group’s form at age-grade level is one of the primary factors behind the five new signings.
This rings especially true for 19-year-old flanker Veveni Lasaqa, who earned his position on the roster despite suffering a recent injury scare with a ligamental tear of his thumb during an under-20s Chiefs match against the Crusaders.
"It’s been a challenging year with injury,” admits Veveni, “so to hear that I had been signed was really appreciated.
“I’ve been trying to recover as best as I can. I can’t wait to get back into it.
“I saw the Whetu Douglas signing; that was unreal. I am so excited to learn from those guys.”
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union CEO Mike Rogers says they’re focused on providing the best possible environment for young players as they get their first taste of professional rugby.
“We are excited to have these talented young players join our Steamers environment,” says Mike.
“Providing an opportunity to learn from our Super Rugby, NZ Sevens and Maori All Blacks is part of our strategy in growing them for the future. They will get access to world-class coaching and train with world-class players.
“We are focused on ensuring we don’t rush and place extra pressure on our young players, but provide the right environment that will support their development.
“We want them to be our future leaders that will be able to do the same for the next group of talented young players coming through our system.”
For the current crop of new faces, signing on the dotted line was payback for the sacrifices and commitments they’ve made up to this point.
Flanker Nikora Broughton, 20, and 19-year-old halfback Kane O’Connor paid special thanks to their families for all of their love and support.
“All the hard work that my school and especially my family has put into helping me chase my rugby dream, to have it finally payoff is rewarding,” says Nikora.
“I couldn’t have done it without their support. This is for them.”
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