Robertson returns to East Coast mix

By Gary Caffell


Ace rugby coach Ritchie Robertson will be hoping history repeats itself in 2013.

Last season Robertson was requested by Greytown to coach their premier division club side after the original choice withdrew from the post.

It was to prove a masterstroke by the South Wairarapa club, who, after a slowish start to the season, improved dramatically to make it all the way to the final, where they comfortably defeated East Coast.

For Robertson that was to be his coaching swansong and when Greytown appointed Tony Lyford and Sam Mitchell as his replacements this coming season the chances of him being happily relegated to the role of spectator seemed even more likely.

But then East Coast came asking for help after their coach of last season, Mark Percy, did not make himself available again, and so Robertson is now head coach of their premier division line-up with Darren Walker as his assistant.

The two know each other well with Robertson having been joint coach with John Pereira when an East Coast squad, in which Walker was a regular part of the front row, won the premier division title for the first time in 2008.

Robertson said he was treating his latest appointment with the same mindset as he had with Greytown last year; he would fill the head coach post for one season and help prepare someone else - in this case Walker - to take over in 2014.

"I certainly don't see it as long term, it's more a matter of ensuring that we get by this season okay and move on."

The loss of star backs Jesse McGilvary and Matt O'Connor and forward leader Kane Nooroa is a setback for East Coast but Robertson, a former Wairarapa-Bush coach, is pleased with the numbers who have been turning up for early-season training runs at the former Lansdowne School grounds in Masterton.

An interesting newcomer is 2m-tall middle-rower Clarke Butcher, a senior club rep from Christchurch, and partnering him at lock could be the spring-heeled Henare Te Whare, who has transferred from Pioneer. Among the old hands back in harness are Wairarapa-Bush reps Nick Olson, Zeb Aporo and Joe Feast.


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