Sevens: Dynamic edge to Northland Sevens

By Cameron Leslie

With Northland's Sevens team now named, it's up to the 12-strong group to turn it on and hit the ground running at this weekend's national sevens tournament in Queenstown.

While the team is spearheaded by Taniwha loosies William Whetton and Dan Pryor, it also includes the dynamic duo of Whiria Meltzer and 17-year-old Josh Browne alongside some Northland club rugby stalwarts.

Northland manager Brad Te Haara believes Whetton and Pryor will be watched closely by All Blacks Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens, along with Meltzer who attracted Tietjens' attention last weekend at the Mt Maunganui sevens tournament.

"Will Whetton was already on the radar, [but] Dan Pryor should be another," Te Haara said. "[Pryor] is not flashy but does the grunt work and is always taking the kick offs cleanly."

In contrast to Pryor, Browne and Meltzer were described by Te Haara as serious young sevens prospects with their speed and skillset - after Browne announced his presence at the Northern Region qualifying competition by stepping three defenders late in their match against North Harbour, one of whom was former Blues player David Raikuna.

Northland's time-share tactics at last weekend's tournament seemed to achieve its purpose with Te Haara saying selecting this sevens team was probably the most difficult selection he has been part of.

"It was really hard with selection as we had 15 fit guys ... [but] we're happy with it. It's probably unfortunate the other guys missed out because they all could been in there.

"We had a shadow team selected, as such, but we just had to make sure the process was strong to warrant selection. You've got to make sure your selection process is strong and you're not leaving the room wondering if you've asked the wrong questions [of players and to selectors]."

Northland Sevens coach Peter Nock decided each team member needed to be given a fair go, so enforced a time curfew to ensure each player had an equal amount of game time.

Te Haara said the pressure was now on to prove to the Northland Rugby Union the time and money that had been spent was worthwhile.

"We've got a goal of making the top eight, which is two wins on day one. For us, because of our results in the past, we've got that [primary] goal and then a stretched goal [of winning the tournament].

"If you make it past day one anything can happen. It just comes down to individuals and players sticking to the systems, and a bit of luck with the bounce of the ball."

Northland's captain will be decided today. Matt Matich and Owen Peihema weren't considered due to injury.

Northland's pool includes Waikato, Southland and Manawatu, with Northland's first game against Waikato on Saturday at 11.30am.

Northland: William Whetton, Dan Pryor, Reuben Wright, Rhys Te Nana, Tane Takulua, Mosese Fotu, Ben Berridge, Tyler Lansdowne, Josh Brown, Whiria Meltzer, Mac Sykes, Warren Dunn.

- Northern Advocate

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