BOP Steamers set for opening pre-season game v Northland

By Peter White

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IN CHARGE: Clayton McMillan begins his second season in charge of Bay of Plenty Steamers against Northland in Whakatane on Friday. PHOTO/FILE A_130815aw25BOP
IN CHARGE: Clayton McMillan begins his second season in charge of Bay of Plenty Steamers against Northland in Whakatane on Friday. PHOTO/FILE A_130815aw25BOP

Bay of Plenty Steamers begin their 2016 campaign with a pre-season match against Northland in Whakatane tomorrow from 3pm.

Steamers head coach Clayton McMillian is hoping to avoid any injuries to his front line players in a game he is looking forward to.

"Let us come through unscathed please," McMillan said.

"We have been working pretty hard over the last six months to prepare for this season and I want to see the fruition of all that hard work come to the fore against Northland.

"Understand it won't be perfect and we haven't been able to tick all the boxes.

"A number of people have only joined the squad in the last week or two so there will be a little bit of rust there but we have seen some real progress there."

Settling in the new players to the Bay of Plenty team culture and playing style has gone pleasingly well for McMillan.

"The boys have been fantastic. The ones who have been part of the furniture a little while and those that are new.

"That has been helped by a lot of the newer boys we have brought in have played a season of club rugby here so they are familiar with our style of play.

"The competitiveness in our club competition this year has helped us be better prepared for (Mitre 10 Cup) level and there has been an increase in enthusiasm from our supporters across the Bay of Plenty."

Bay of Plenty Rugby CEO Mike Rogers says the Northland game and next Friday's match with Auckland are crucial to preparing the team for the Mitre 10 Cup opener against Taranaki at Tauranga Domain on August 20.

"From our perspective bringing the squad together is difficult at this time of the year given we have guys in Super Rugby and away with sevens (at Olympics)," Rogers said.

"These games are really important to try and build for the season.

"Clayton (McMillan) has done a great job I think in selecting a group of players who have performed well in club rugby.

"We have added what we think are some exciting players as far as the sevens boys who have signed with us and then building on last year's performances.

"They have all been working hard and it is an exciting opportunity."

The one disappointing part of the scheduling of tomorrow's game is that it is a day before the Baywide finals, meaning none of the extended Steamers squad players are eligible for finals rugby.

"Ideally we want our contracted players involved in club finals but unfortunately the club competition structure was determined by the clubs," Rogers said.

"That's fine because it is important they get a club competition that they want. They knew and we knew at the start of the club season about this.

"But we need to be able to prepare a team for a Mitre 10 Cup and if we don't perform then we are not representing our region. We have done our best to accommodate that.

"Hopefully we can sit down and work it out for next year and make sure it works better."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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