Hooker Jacob Devery is eager to return to the Hawke's Bay Magpies Mitre 10 Cup rugby squad.
The third-season Hastings Rugby and Sports club player who made seven first class appearances in 2017, six of them as a sub, missed a fair chunk of the 2018 season with wrist and ankle injuries. This resulted in the 20-year-old missing out on Magpies selection but he was an influential figure for the Hawke's Bay under-19s as they recorded their best finish, seventh, at their national tournament in Taupo.
"I only just played the Maddison Trophy rounds. I'm looking forward to this year and I've just finished the best pre-season I have had ... I'm ready to go," Devery said.
"I had a 17.1 in a Yo-Yo test the other day. That's not far off my best of 18.4 I had last year."
The Hastings Boys' High School product will get a more accurate indication of how good his pre-season has been when he turns out for Hastings Rugby and Sports at today's New Zealand Marist Spillane Cup tournament in New Plymouth. Already one of the team's leaders despite his youth, Devery is impressed with the talent on the team's roster.
"We've got a few young boys as well as a handy new recruit in Dillon," Devery said referring to 2013 New Zealand Secondary Schools loosie Dillon Wihongi, who played for the Auckland Blues under-20s in 2015 and '16 and recently returned from a stint in Australia.
"It's good to have Magpies Mason Emerson, Jason Long and Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe back. Later on we will get our Super boys back," he said referring to Hurricanes lock Geoff Cridge and the Highlanders pair of halfback Folau Fakatava and loosie Marino Mikaele-Tu'u.
"Obviously we want to improve on last year's semifinal finish in the Maddison Trophy. We don't want to peak too early. We're not putting a huge focus on the Nash Cup and will use those rounds to try and build combinations," Devery said.
He knows some handy displays during the club season will enhance his chances of joining Maori All Black captain Ash Dixon and Hurricanes under-20 rake Kianu Kereru-Symes as the top contenders for the Magpies No 2 jersey this season. Devery was Dixon's deputy in 2017.
The Flaxmere Primary School teacher aide said improving his workrate around the paddock - increasing his ball carrying stats and tackling stats - is his biggest work on.
The Tukapa club in New Plymouth is hosting today's tournament which will be Devery's second taste of Spillane Cup play. His team will take on Marist St Pats of Wellington at 10.20am, the same time defending champions Napier Old Boys Marist meet Hutt Old Boys Marist.
The two winners will meet in the 4.30pm final and the two losers will meet at 3.15pm. The loser of the 3.15pm game will be relegated to the Ham Cumming Cup second division for next year.
Hastings Rugby and Sports won this division last year to gain promotion. Hastings manager James Rosenberg said his troops have been looking forward to today as both of their pre-season matches were cancelled after opposing teams struggled for numbers.