Blues move encourages

By Cameron Leslie

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MORE CHANCE? Derek Carpenter is one of the Taniwha players likely to be paid attention by the Blues, in light of Tony Hawks being named the franchise's high-performance manager.PHOTO/FILE
MORE CHANCE? Derek Carpenter is one of the Taniwha players likely to be paid attention by the Blues, in light of Tony Hawks being named the franchise's high-performance manager.PHOTO/FILE

Future Taniwha players are set to have a close eye kept on them by the Blues, now that a new high-performance manager has been announced in a "tracksuit"-type role.

Tony Hanks will be involved with all three provinces within the Blues - Northland, Auckland and North Harbour - in a bid to make sure the best players are being filtered through into ITM Cup teams and on to the Blues.

Northland Rugby Union chief executive officer Jeremy Parkinson said while it wouldn't mean more Northlanders would be in the Blues, Hanks would be hands-on with the region's provinces.

"My understanding it is going to be a tracksuit job and actually getting out and about and pressing the flesh," Parkinson said.

"It's just a case of aligning all the provinces and making sure the best players are filtering through from each of the provinces through our own academies and ITM Cup teams into the Blues.

"So, he'll be working with the likes of Derren [Witcombe] and George [Konia] and aligning all three.

"At the end of the day, that [Northlanders being selected in the Blues] is Sir JK's call as the coach. [John Kirwan] wants all of the Blues players currently in his squad playing ITM Cup within the franchise so we're hearing some good things with that, but time will tell.

"I think [selection] comes back to performance on the park ... We only came 13th, and only won two games and drew one, so you can't say we got a raw deal - but in saying that Harbour came last and got more players in the team than we did."

While Parkinson believed time would tell on Hanks' influence, it was a step forward and showed the Blues were working with the provinces.

"The good thing is they've been proactive, the new CEO has been up and discussed what we can do better and this year is the one where they need to start delivering some actions."

Hanks had done his time in the professional game.

"Personally, I've known Tony Hanks since 1999, when I actually worked as a rugby development officer at the Auckland Rugby Union when Bruce Robertson was my boss, and Tony Hanks was one as well.

"He's been in the rugby industry a number of years, he's got an infinity with the franchise in that he has come from Auckland but he has also got a good rugby background in that he has been quite heavily involved as a coach - and coaching at all levels."

Hanks has had roles with the Auckland Rugby Union, Junior All Blacks, Waikato, the Chiefs, London Wasps and the Russian national side.

This month, Hanks told 3 News it was important to get into the provinces and make sure the talent was filtering through.

"It's a great opportunity to return home and create something special in the area of high performance in the Blues region, which I believe as a nursery for talent is probably one of the strongest in the world," Hanks said.

"With a new structure and a strong coaching group I felt the timing was perfect to join the Blues as high-performance manager.

"It's really important we tap into that, evolve some of the good work that has happened in the past and put in place the framework for continued long-term success."

- Northern Advocate

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