Thirty-one years after Shane Foster played for the first Hawke's Bay open men's touch team at a national tournament he will co-captain the Bay's first 50plus side at nationals this weekend.
"It's pretty special to be involved with both history-making teams that many years apart," Foster said on the eve of the Rotorua-hosted open and masters nationals which will begin today and continue until Sunday.
While the former Hawke's Bay Unicorns rugby league speedster who is still the Bay's No 1 league referee, Foster, 51, has already been part of a national title-winning team in tag football this season his expectations aren't as high for the touch side.
"This is going to be daunting. Hawke's Bay haven't been in this age group at nationals before. While we have former Magpies rugby players and former Unicorns but touch is different," Foster explained.
The Richmond School principal believed his players will be shocked by the pace and skill required at this level.
"This year will be a stepping stone. We will find out what we need to do better in future as we don't want this to be a one-year thing."
All four of the Bay's opponents - defending champions Auckland, who include the bulk of New Zealand's 50plus World Cup team, Canterbury, North Harbour and Counties-Manukau - played at last year's nationals. The Auckland match will be the Bay's televised game.
"Our four opponents know what to expect at a national tournament. We are the dark horses and the pressure will be on our boys to deliver the expectations we have," Foster said.
Apart from fellow former Unicorns and Flaxmere Falcons speedster Graeme Ewart, Foster didn't know any other members of the Bay squad when they assembled for their first training session in January. He said the likes of former Magpies winger Peter Davis, Gary Exeter and co-captain Andy Clark have plenty of pace.
"Former Magpies locks Alan Gardiner and Matt Bird have good speed and skills for big units."
"We know we have to win one game to reach the semifinals. We have a couple of players with niggly injuries and it will be a case of survival of the fittest come Sunday. But it would be unreal to come back with a semifinal finish," Foster said.
Last month Foster played for the New Zealand 50plus tag football side under the Hawke's Bay Panthers name which beat the New Zealand 45plus team playing under the Hibiscus Coast name in the final of the 45plus age group at the national tag football tournament in Auckland. The match was decided by a drop off which went down to five players a-side.
From April 3-5 Foster will play for the New Zealand 50plus tag football team in a five-test series against Australia in Auckland. Later this year he will play in tag football's World Cup in Auckland.
"I'm hoping a few of the boys who enjoy the touch football experience this weekend might want to give tag a crack in the future. It's all about us becoming role models for our mates who aren't active," Foster added.
Hawke's Bay's open men's and open women's teams will also be playing at this weekend's nationals. The open women's team includes three mother-daughter pairs, Jeda and Reiley Bartlett, Sara and Ratahi Corbett and former New Zealand representative Candis Timms and stepdaughter Briah McGrail-Timms.
New Zealand open men's representative Ash Robinson-Bartlett and former Hawks basketballer Mataeus Marsh will be the kingpins in the Bay's open men's team.
Hawke's Bay teams:
HB 50plus men: Shane Foster (co-captain), Andy Clark (co-captain), Peter Davis, Graeme Ewart, Matt Bird, Romana Puketapu, Derek Devane, Alan Gardiner, Gary Exeter, Matt Smith, Michael Hardgrave, Doug Taipari, Darren Goodall, Reva Joseph.
Hawke's Bay open women: Candis Timms, Rachel Joseph, Chanay Peri, Deanna Muir, Reiley Bartlett, Cortez Te Pou, Ratahi Corbett, Shyan Murphy, Jeda Bartlett, Shiloh Gill, Faith Gill, Hinerangi Temara, Laine Robinson-Bartlett, Briah McGrail-Timms, Sara Corbett, Myer Pakoti.
Hawke's Bay open men: Tama Dunn, Kaelym Kelly-Harmer, Zac Brooker, Ash Robinson-Bartlett, Hoera Stephenson, Taniora Te Kawana, Caleb Harmer, Kayden Kingi, Karnak Heremia, Tony Mihaere, Roger Paewai, Mataeus Marsh, Hone Kawhiti-Paraone, Luc Harmer, Troydyn Bird, Tamati Te Pou.
HB 50plus men: Today, 9.50: v Canterbury; 12.20: v Auckland; 2.50: v North Harbour. Saturday: 2.50: v Counties-Manukau. Sunday: Playoffs.