Adam Bradey can appreciate the irony.
The Hawke's Bay Magpie who has switched from the loose forwards to second five-eighth has waited all season for his first first-class outing in the No12 jersey. But at the same time Bradey didn't expect it to come in the Magpies' first ITM Cup Championship outing of the season against the Manawatu Turbos at Napier's McLean Park tomorrow.
"It's been a long time coming. I've had all the club season and all of the Magpies' pre-season games to prepare for it. However, I thought Hosser [first string second five-eighth Andrew Horrell] would have been back for the season-opener but he is having an extended injury break," Bradey said.
"I've got the first opportunity to put my hand up," Bradey said referring to one of the Magpies key slogans for the season - Put Your Hand Up Not Out.
Bradey, who has played all of his previous 29 first-class games for the Magpies as a loose forward but played second five-eighth in his first year out of Napier Boys' High School for the Hawke's Bay under-20s, admitted at the start of the season the switch would be a gamble and last weekend's final pre-season game against Auckland made him realise how tough it's going to be.
"You play against quality opposition and you realise there is still plenty to learn."
The Davcon Ltd builder pointed out he is still working on his combination with Magpies centre Richard Buckman but the fact he played his club season outside Havelock North and Magpies first five-eighth Ihaia West is a plus. Bradey marked Turbos second five-eighth Tevita Taufu'i when the Saracens XV thrashed the Manawatu Evergreens 46-14 in Palmy last month.
"He was a solid ball-carrier," Bradey said.
Horrell and Crusaders wider training group prop Adrian Barone were the only likely Magpies first-stringers not considered for tomorrow's game because of injury. However, Brendon Edmonds has made gigantic strides during the past two seasons as a loosehead prop and he will be a more than able replacement for former Turbo Barone.
Seven players in the Magpies' starting XV will make their first-class debuts for the Bay. They are Crusaders winger Telusa Veainu, former All Blacks halfback Alby Mathewson, No8 Mark Atkins, the hero of Taranaki's National Sevens title win in Queenstown in January, Blues openside flanker Brendon O'Connor, New Zealand Universities lock Michael Allardice, his locking partner, former Canterbury age group rep Mark Abbott and former London Irish prop Max Lahiff.
Should former Junior All Black hooker Ged Robinson and French first five-eighth Regis Lespinas get time off the subs bench they will also make their first-class debuts for the Magpies.
Magpies head coach Craig Philpott has been impressed with his side's training this week.
"The boys are in a good frame of mind and they know they could have played a lot better than they did in the victory against Auckland. We've fixed things up there."
He expects the Turbos to be a lot tougher than they were in the pre-season encounter following the return of Super Rugby prop Ma'afu Fia, lock Michael Fitzgerald, flankers Nick Crosswell, the Turbos captain, and Callum Gibbons and centre Jason Emery.
Nine of tomorrow's Magpies 22 played in last year's upset 20-7 loss to the Turbos. Bradey, fullback Gillies Kaka, winger Zac Guildford, West, Edmonds, hooker Ash Dixon, captain and blindside flanker Mike Coman, substitute lock Johan Schoonbee and substitute flankers Trent Boswell-Wakefield and Karl Lowe shouldn't be short of motivational ammunition.
Hawke's Bay Rugby Football Union's commercial and marketing manager Jay Campbell is predicting more than 7000 fans will pack the stands at tomorrow's match. He is encouraging spectators to pre-purchase their tickets in advance and get to the ground early.
"Past history shows we get hammered at the ticket box in the first game of every year as well as smashed late with walkups, causing large and long queues."
Campbell urged fans to buy their tickets from the Hawke's Bay Opera House in Hastings or the union's McLean Park office or go online at ticketdirect.co.nz.
Another reason why pre-purchasing tickets is a good idea, is starting with this weekend's game, an additional $2.50 ticketing service fee will apply for all tickets purchased from the gate.
Gates open at 12.40pm. Ninth grade curtainraiser games will involve Havelock North, Clive, Eskview and Napier Old Boys Marist. The Tremains Rippa Rugby clash will see Tiaho School from Wairoa take on Richmond School from Napier.
Bonnie Cakes will provide free face painting and Take a Kid to Footy packages will be available for the Rodney Green Stand. These packages are $25 for one adult and one child plus $7.50 for all other children.
Each child receives a Magpies bag with a packet of chips, lollipop, flavoured milk, a Hogs Breath Cafe voucher and Magpies sticker.
Magpies v Turbos
McLean Park, Napier