Steamers first five eighth for tonight's Mitre 10 Cup match against Counties-Manukau, Mike Delany, is proof that you can, after all, teach an old dog new tricks.

Rotorua born and raised, he made his first appearance for Bay of Plenty in 2005 and tonight's match will be his 74th in the blue and gold hoops.

He's just returned home to Papamoa after what is surely one of the most satisfying contracts of his illustrious career – with the Super Rugby champion Crusaders.

No, he didn't get much time on the field. Just a couple of starts and one of them was against the French Barbarians to go with a few appearances off the bench. That's your lot when you have your 36th birthday during a season playing in the same position as a guy called Richie Mo'unga.

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It's a time in his life though that he wouldn't have missed for anything.

"It was a great chance for me to learn and grow as a player.

"Dealing with (assistant coach) Ronan O'Gara, he was a pretty handy first five, and Richie and Huntie (Mitchell Hunt) so it was just an awesome environment.

"I learnt a lot down there, even at my age and it's been great to bring a few of those things back to this group and hopefully we can grow as a team as well."

The lack of playing time didn't concern him.

"Although you're not playing, there's a lot of work going on behind the scenes, a lot of strategy and we make sure that the team that was starting was prepared well and that the guys that weren't playing helped that.

"From the outside in, it seems like you might have a bit of an armchair ride but it's a pretty intense environment in the sense that you've got to be prepared to play each week if something goes wrong."

And he's full of praise for another Bay of Plenty product who has emerged as one of the best coaches in the world – Mount Maunganui raised Scott Robertson.

"Razor's created such an amazing culture down there. It was a pleasure to come into work every day. It's just such a really good feeling amongst the group and it's definitely something I'll cherish."

The Crusaders were Delany's third Super Rugby club after previous stints at the Highlanders and Chiefs. There've been some lucrative off shore deals too with the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan, Clermont Auvergne in France and Newcastle in England. And there was that one test for the All Blacks in 2009.

However, he does give the impression that the end might be near, even if there's some unfinished business with the Steamers.

"It's great to be home. Moving around the place gets a bit tiresome but at the same time I love what I do.

"It's a little bit warmer here and it's nice to get down on the beach."

If it were to be his last season, there would be nothing more fitting than Bay of Plenty winning promotion to the top tier Mitre 10 Cup premiership division.

"We proved to ourselves last year we are a good side and we can mix it with the best of them."

Delany was in wonderful form controlling the Steamers backline in the opening win against Taranaki.

A perfect goal kicking record helped the cause too, landing six from six.

"I haven't had a lot of practice in the last month, but it was nice playing at home in Rotorua in the hangi pit!"

Hooker and captain Liam Polwart will play against Counties-Manukau after all. His neck injury has recovered sufficiently for him to take his place in the front row.

Bay of Plenty Steamers v Counties Manukau:
1. James Lay (11) 2. Liam Polwart (15) (C) 3. Jeff Thwaites (22) 4. Kane Le'aupepe (1) 5. Aaron Carroll (1) 6. Tyler Ardron (7) 7. Mitch Karpik (7) 8. Hoani Matenga (1) 9. Richard Judd (11) 10. Mike Delany (73) (VC) 11. Mathew Garland (4) 12. Terrence Hepetema (20) 13. Liam Steel (5) 14. Fa'asiu Fuatai (1) 15. Chase Tiatia (27) Reserves: 16. Angus MacDonald (1) 17. Solomona Sakalia (34) 18. Ross Geldenhuys (1) 19. Baden Wardlaw (1)/Tanerau Latimer (79) (VC) 20. Zane Kapeli (1)

21. Luke Campbell (17) 22. Jason Robertson* 23. Trael Joass (1) * Denotes debut ** Denotes blazer game – 15 games () Denotes number of games Game Details: Thursday 23 August Navigation Holmes Stadium, Pukekohe Kick-off: 7.35pm