Rugby: Bird divided between two nests

By Shane Hurndell

Don't be surprised to see former Hawke's Bay Magpies captain John Bird cheering for both teams during tomorrow night's ITM Cup Premiership match against Canterbury at Napier's McLean Park.

"For me this match is going to be quite relaxing," said Bird, who played 82 first class games for the Magpies between 1981 and 92.

His son, Dominic Bird, a former Hawke's Bay age group representative and 2011 New Zealand under-20s world champion, will be one of the starting locks for the Cantabs.

"I had a bit of practice earlier in the year at cheering for both teams," Bird quipped, referring to the Hawke's Bay Premier Netball League final in August, during which his daughters Ellie and Jess played for HHSOG Huias and Otane Force respectively.

Last week he watched Ellie, who has secured a trial with ANZ Championship titleholders Magic on Sunday, in action at the Tauranga-hosted netball nationals before travelling to Whangarei on Friday to watch Dominic play for Canterbury in an ITM Cup crossover win against Northland.

Bird has been impressed with the manner in which Canterbury have "cranked the throttle up" in recent weeks and got better and better.

He has enjoyed watching the likes of Dominic and other members of Hawke's Bay age group teams he has coached, including Otago's Brad Weber and Gareth Evans, strut their stuff at Cup level.

The 2.06m tall Dominic is excited about his first game for Canterbury against the Magpies in the Bay. He can't wait to play against his former Central Hawke's Bay College teammate and prop Brendon Edmonds and fellow Canterbury age group lock Tom Parsons.

"I'm sure we will rib each other and rub each other's faces into the ground," he quipped.

Dominic pointed out the Cantabs haven't been entirely happy with their season to date but at the same time they are happy things are coming together towards the business end of the season. He had a stressful time recently deciding on his first Super Rugby side.

In addition to the Crusaders, the Blues and Chiefs were chasing his signature.

"In the end I decided Christchurch was the best place to be. I could have got more game time with the Blues but down here in Christchurch is where my heart is," Dominic said.

Although the Magpies haven't been playing as well as they should, Dominic said the Cantabs would still take their hosts seriously.

"In this competition you have to take every team seriously or they will bite you," he said.

Like his Canterbury counterpart Tabai Matson, Magpies coach Craig Philpott will name his team today. Philpott won't have the services of captain and loosie Mike Coman, who is scheduled to have a scan on a neck injury today.

Other Magpies who collected injuries in Saturday's loss and won't be available for tomorrow night's match are prop Adrian Barone, with a shoulder injury, halfback Chris Eaton (calf tear) and Crusaders winger Zac Guildford (hamstring). Barone and Coman hope to be considered for Saturday night's Ranfurly Shield challenge against Waikato but Guildford and Eaton will join outside back Nick McLennan, first five-eighth Dan Waenga, midfielder Tua Saseve and utility back Richard Buckman on Philpott's "out for the season" list.

Midfield back Bronson Neera and halfback Michael Ruru have been promoted from the Magpies' wider training group as cover for the injuries. Philpott was among the Canterbury union's resource coaches before coming to the Bay but yesterday he pointed out there had been no pre-match bets or banter between the two camps involving him.

"There has been no contact and I'm in no position to initiate any banter," Philpott said, referring to the fact the Magpies' quest to avoid relegation had reached desperation point.

"I can tell you Canterbury teams don't like coming here and they never have. They expect tough games and it's our responsibility to continue that tradition," Philpott, a former Canterbury and Nelson Bays lock, said.

He added his main priority was to help the Magpies produce a performance worthy of experienced loosie Karl Lowe's 90th first-class game for the side.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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