Rugby: Guess who's coming home?

By Shane Hurndell

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Former Magpies captain Jason Shoemark, pictured in action against North Harbour in 2010, will return to the Bay in June with the aim of playing for the Magpies again. Photo / File
Former Magpies captain Jason Shoemark, pictured in action against North Harbour in 2010, will return to the Bay in June with the aim of playing for the Magpies again. Photo / File

Former Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby captain Jason Shoemark will return to the Bay in June with the aim of securing a regular starting XV berth in his former side.

"Shoey told me he isn't just coming back to offer experience and guidance to the youngsters in the mix ... he wants to demand a starting XV spot," Magpies assistant coach Danny Lee said when Hawke's Bay Rugby Football Union CEO Mike Bishop announced Shoemark's signing yesterday.

When former New Zealand under-19 representative Shoemark left the Bay in 2010 after scoring 100 points in 53 first class games for the Magpies he indicated he would return to the Bay with the aim of buying some land and building a house.

"It may be a bit sooner than expected because he is still playing good rugby for the Exeter Chiefs, but he has obviously had enough of the United Kingdom weather and lifestyle," Lee said.

While Lee, who enticed Shoemark to the Bay in 2006, has yet to discuss club rugby with the former Highlanders and Blues Super Rugby player he said it would be a surprise if he didn't return to his former Taradale club.

Like Lee, Magpies head coach Craig Philpott, said Shoemark will add experience and depth to the Magpies midfield with his ability to play centre or second-five joining Chiefs utility Andrew Horrell and Highlander Richard Buckman.

"Obviously Bucky is our No1 centre at the moment. But if he keeps playing as well on the wing for the Highlanders as he did last weekend he could be an All Black in that position. We also must remember we have lost our starting back three from last season in Gillies Kaka [focusing on Sevens], Telusa Veainu [in Australia] and Zac Guildford [heading to France after Super Rugby] so there is a chance Andrew may end up at fullback and Bucky on the wing at some stage," Philpott said.

Philpott pointed out the four midfielders in the Magpies wider training group, Timo Vaiusu, Billy Ropiha, Neria Fomai and Ted Walters, are all working exceptionally well. Former Magpie Star Timu, a world champion under-20 player in 2010, may also force his way into the mix if he shines in club rugby for Hastings Rugby and Sports.

Among Shoemark's Magpies highlights before his departure to Britain were the 2007 and '08 quarterfinal wins against Waikato, he scored two tries in the '08 one, and the 2007 win against Wellington. He missed the 2006 season after collecting a season ending neck injury in club rugby.

"It could have ended my career. I was really lucky to still be walking let alone playing rugby again. I played my best rugby after that injury. It was a little bit of a blessing in disguise as it helped me sort my body out properly," he said in 2010.

"Playing for the Magpies between 2007 and 2010 was a real highlight in my playing career and I'm thrilled to be able to return. I will be giving my all to ensure we have a great season," Shoemark said yesterday.

Meanwhile Bishop was thrilled to yesterday announce the signing of three-year deals for Hastings Rugby and Sports lock Geoff Cridge, Lindisfarne College speedster Mason Emerson and former Hawke's Bay age group representative Jonah Lowe who is in his final year at Kings College, Auckland.

"Geoff came to us as a raw 18-year-old last year and has been in our academy group both years. We are delighted to be able to retain such exciting young talent for an extended period. It feels like it did several years ago when we did something similar with two guys called Dagg and Guildford," Bishop said.

"Geoff is an impressive specimen and has all the attributes to make a really strong impact in this year's national under-20 squad and our own ITM Cup squad," Philpott said.

"Mason and Jonah are two really exciting outside backs who have skill and pace to burn," Lee said.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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