The Bay of Plenty Steamers have assembled a versatile and exciting 33-man squad for the 2017 Mitre 10 Cup.
Head coach Clayton McMillan said, along with a group of enthusiastic debutants, there was a good level of experience with 24 capped players, including 11 Super Rugby players.
"We've selected a strong, keen group of men, dotted by experience throughout and most importantly driven to perform for their province," McMillan said.
There are 26 players returning to the Steamers including centurion Culum Retallick and former All Black Mike Delany. Delany has played 61 matches for the Steamers, last appearing for the side in 2010.
Seven new players will join the squad with nine players expecting to make their debut in the blue and gold hoops.
Expected debutants include hard-working Canadian forward Tyler Ardron, Opotiki local and Highlanders lock Tom Franklin, Mount Maunganui Sport's Richard Judd and Liam Steel, Whakarewarewa's James Lay, exciting young talent Tauranga Sports' number eight Ajay Lafaele-Mua and Greerton Marist's fullback Bailey Simonsson.
Returning players Chiefs' Mitchel Karpik and Manu Samoa's Jordan Lay will also expect to debut after both being sidelined with knee injuries last year.
There are 10 Bay of Plenty clubs represented within the 33-man squad.
"All but four players in our squad have played in the Baywide club rugby competition this year, including All Black Nathan Harris and the majority of our Investec Super Rugby players," McMillan said.
"The team understand the demands and challenges ahead, but we have prepared accordingly and are ready to meet those challenges head on and deliver for our province.
"We are growing as a team and have continued to build over the past two seasons, but it is now our time to deliver for our supporters and stakeholders and I believe we have the team to do that."
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union chief executive Mike Rogers said: "As the professional game continues to grow each Mitre 10 Cup campaign provides us with the opportunity to showcase a number of young talented athletes immersed with experienced campaigners.
"Not only does the Mitre 10 Cup provide the community with some fantastic rugby, it allows us to show our true colours with exciting match ups against traditional rivals such as Hawke's Bay and Waikato. I know I can't wait to see what our team can do," said Rogers.
In addition to the 33, eight players have been called in to help during the pre-season campaign as cover for returning Super Rugby players and injury.
They include Rotoiti captain Bayden Wardlaw, Paroa blindside flanker Mone Funaki, Greerton Marist's illusive number eight Savelio Ropati, Arataki first five-eighth Reece Macdonald, Whakarewarewa's talented centre Matt Garland, Greerton Marist's backline duo of Atu and Luke Masirewa and All Blacks Sevens representative Joe Webber. These players will be available for selection for the upcoming Bay of Plenty Pro 4 Series.
2017 Bay of Plenty Steamers Squad:
Hookers: Nathan Harris - Te Puke Sports (26), Liam Polwart (6) - Greerton Marist, James O'Reilly - Te Puke Sports (9), Sabastian Siataga - Mount Maunganui (9).
Props: Siegfried Fisi'ihoi - Rotoiti (28), James Lay* - Whakarewarewa, Jordan Lay* - Whakarewarewa, Aidan Ross - Te Puke Sports (14), Solomona Sakalia - Mount Maunganui (28), Jeff Thwaites - Te Puna (11).
Locks: Troy Callander - Greerton Marist (12), Tom Franklin* - Opotiki, Keepa Mewett - Tauranga Sports (24), Culum Retallick - Tauranga Sports (103).
Loose Forwards: Tyler Ardron* - Papamoa, Hugh Blake* - Te Puke Sports (8), Sam Cane - Tauranga Sports (19), Mitchell Karpik* - Rangataua, Ajay Lafaele-Mua* - Tauranga Sports, Jesse Parete - Rangataua (10), Henry Stowers - Arataki (10).
Half backs: Luke Campbell - Te Puke Sports (4), Richard Judd* - Mount Maunganui Sports.
First five-eighths: Mike Delany - Mount Maunganui Sports (61), Kelly Haimona - Whakarewarewa (25).
Midfield backs: Lalakai Foketi - Rangataua (18), Terrence Hepetema - Te Puna (7), Liam Steel* - Mount Maunganui Sports.
Outside backs: Monty Ioane - Greerton Marist (11), Elijah Nicholas - Te Puna (7), Bailey Simonsson* - Greerton Marist, Chase Tiatia - Rangataua (14), Isaac Te Aute - Mount Maunganui (11).
Lars Morrice - Te Puke Sports not considered due to injury.
*Denotes Steamers debut.
() Denotes Steamers caps.