Locals' time to shine for Eagles

By Cameron Leslie

For Northland's Whiria Meltzer, Josh Browne and Ben Berridge, the sevens buzz just keeps going.

They were head-hunted to join the SRC Borneo Eagles sevens team which this weekend is a strong favourite to take out the Heineken Hottest Sevens competition in Darwin and its $27,500 cash prize.

After a successful Northland sevens campaign, Meltzer said this weekend provided an opportunity on a bigger stage to further his sevens career.

"I'm stoked as," said the 21-year-old.

"It's kind of like a superstar team we're playing for ... there are a few well-known sevens players in the team."

Meltzer is a bit of a star in his own right after attracting the attention of New Zealand All Blacks Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens.

After having been shoulder tapped during the national sevens competition, Meltzer said Tietjens was keen to keep an eye on his development.

"I didn't make the team [the New Zealand Emerging Players team] because Gordon Tietjens said I need to work on my fitness," Meltzer said.

"He said if I'm keen to work on a few things then he'll keep looking at me."

Borneo Eagles manager PJ Tsang-Yum said the Northland trio could become a permanent part of a team which travelled the world to compete for cash prizes at sevens competitions.

"If they perform, not only on-field but off-field, then there is a good chance they'll continue," said Tsang-Yum.

"We always try and stay loyal to our boys, and look after our younger boys who have potential.

"I've heard Whiria [Meltzer] is a bit of an excitement machine [and] able to create quite a few breaks. The other guys come with a lot of energy and come with a lot of positivity.

"We want to not only help develop young rugby players, we want to turn young guys into young men, and not have them spending money on alcohol and things like that."

Tsang-Yum was put in a difficult position after nine squad members, including David Raikuna and Ed Cocker, withdrew, giving Berridge, Browne and Meltzer a major opportunity.

Tsang-Yum said the Borneo Eagles was one of about three teams which could win this weekend. Also standing a strong chance is Australia's national team, who will use the competition as a lead-in to the Wellington Sevens next month.

The Borneo Eagles competed worldwide including sevens competitions in Singapore, Hong Kong and Italy. The Borneo Eagles are also targeting a tournament in Los Angeles in July.

- Northern Advocate

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