It was the Coastline Mariner’s first representative rugby league outing for two or three years, and they got ‘pumped’ 46-10.
But the score didn’t matter for much, and coach James “Jock” Nicholson remains upbeat and positive.
“Wasn’t it great to see a Coastline Mariners representative team out on the paddock for the first time in two or three years,” he says. And considering Waikato are a very classy side - finalists in the first division last year with Akarana - the Mariner’s coach is very heartened.
It’s the beginning of a revival, and Jock’s Mariners were playing together for the very first time. The Mitchell Park game was the first step down the path that Jock hopes will lead the Mariners to the prestigious Northern Region representative competition involving Waikato Development, Bay of Plenty, Northern Swords and the Auckland Sharman Development team next year.
“The players were very disappointed at the scoreline,” says Jock. And that pleased him. “It tells me that our team is competitive and has pride. They didn’t like getting beaten and certainly not by that margin. That underscores some passion.”
Jock says the Mariners had a very good first 20 minutes against Waikato. They even led 6-0 at one point, and there was another excellent 10-minute spell in the second-half. “Ideally, we would like to dominate for longer, but Waikato were very good at the basics, the one percenters. You cannot afford to miss tackles at this level. Miss one and it’s try time.”
The Mariners competed well in some phases. Loose forward Ari Robens worked tirelessly both on attack and defence. Brother in arms Tamati Robens on the wing and prop Josh Pawa also had strong games.
“But there’s a lot of hard work ahead,” insists Jock, and while the Mariners are aware of what’s required at representative level, they aren’t quite there yet. “But we can get there by playing the best,” he adds. “The game was a good gauge.”
Jock has a young squad. “Fullback Mikaere Bennett is just 18,” he says. “Between 70 and 80 per cent are under 25. It’s about keeping these guys together and building some size, weight and strength. But there are a lot of good things to work on.”
Many of these young guys haven’t played representative rugby league. It’s a big step up from club football and a new campaign. The quest for Northern Region representation only started five weeks ago. “We have one more game against Taranaki to ensure we can compete next year,” says Jock. “This is all about building for next year.”
The coach is very chipper for the immediate future of representative rugby league in Tauranga.