Rugby: Letting the good times roll

By Shane Hurndell

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It's rather ironic new Clive premier club rugby coach Darren Martin boasts the nickname "JJ".

Former New Zealand Maori representative Martin, 47, got the nickname during his days at Te Aute College. Several of his mates reckoned the 1984 New Zealand Secondary Schools representative had a strong resemblance to Jimmie Walker or JJ Evans (as he was known) in the popular 1970s television show Good Times which focused on a family doing it tough in the Chicago projects.

In his new role at the Clive club he played for in 1985 and '86 when he represented the Magpies upon leaving school, Martin is charged with bringing the "good times" back to a side which was bottom of the table in last year's Nash Cup and Maddison Trophy competitions.

"I've been home from France for three years now and I watched Clive several times last season. I'm confident we'll be more competitive than that side was," Martin explained.

"I've introduced some core values from back in our day ... blood, sweat and tears. The boys know they've got to make some sacrifices, work hard and show a bit of passion," Martin said.

There will be extra pressure on Martin and his troops when they host Taradale at Farndon Park in a first round Nash Cup fixture on Saturday. This will be the feature match of the Clive club's 125th Jubilee Celebrations Weekend.

"Obviously it will be great to win the gold medal in this match. But if we can show our supporters we can be competitive I'm sure everyone will be happy," Martin, a veteran of 15 years as a professional player in France, said.

"Like most teams we've collected several pre-season injuries but I'm happy with the progress we're making. I rate our openside flanker James Tango highly and it's good to have experienced lock Sven Hogenesch back."

A former No 8, who was coached by former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry in the New Zealand Secondary Schools side, Martin is impressed with the Clive club's imported No 8 Mark Atkins.

"Mark leads by example and is top joker just like his old man," Martin said referring to former Canterbury No 8 Dale Atkins who he played against.

"Mark has a few more smiles than his old man," Martin quipped.

A former France Sevens player as well as France rugby league representative, Martin is so focused on his coaching he won't be turning out in Sunday's Legends match at the 125th Jubilee Celebrations.

"I'm pretty serious about bringing the good times back. But later in the year I'll be keen to help the old blokes in the senior thirds out," Martin said.

"I know about the sacrifices the boys are making in terms of juggling their rugby with their work and family life. I've got to make some, too," said the father of two who works in the boning room at Silver Fern Farms Whakatu plant.

Other Nash Cup encounters will see Central host MAC at Waipukurau's Central Park and Napier Technical host Hastings Rugby and Sports at Whitmore Park tomorrow while on Saturday Napier Old Boys Marist host defending champions Progressive Meats Havelock North at Park Island and Tamatea take on Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports at Bill Mathewson Park.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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