Maori All Black and Hurricanes lock Isaia Walker-Leawere is among 11 newcomers named in the Hawke's Bay Magpies Mitre 10 Cup squad today.
The other newcomers in the 39-strong squad are Taradale utility back Caleb Makene, who has previously represented Canterbury and Tasman, Napier Technical lock Elijah Martin, Napier Old Boys Marist loosie Hannon Brighouse, Central prop Joel Hintz, a former Wellington Lions player, Taradale's former Blues and Auckland prop Namatahi Waa, Hastings Rugby and Sports midfielders Neria Fomai, a former Southland Stags player, and Timo Vaiusu, Taradale outside back Ollie Sapsford, Napier Old Boys Marist fullback Saia Paese and Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports midfield back Tyrone Dodd-Edwards.
A feature of this year's side is the number of players who have earned themselves selection on the back of solid performances in club rugby.
"This year's squad includes representatives across all 10 premier clubs while all but one [Walker-Leawere] have played club rugby in Hawke's Bay either this year or previously. This continues our strategy to select those from within Hawke's Bay club rugby and developing and promoting our own talent," Hawke's Bay Rugby Union chief executive Jay Campbell said.
Magpies head coach Mark Ozich and his assistant Josh Syms believe they have assembled their most competitive squad since taking over 18 months ago with no fewer than 16 players having experienced Super Rugby.
"The squad has plenty of proven quality blended with a number of highly promising and talented youngsters and they are all extremely excited about representing their province in this year's Mitre 10 Cup," Ozich said.
"As emphasised by the squad we have assembled, we have plenty of talent and depth to select from and we are looking forward to building on the momentum from last season with our goal to win the Championship."
Twenty-five of the 39 players named formed part of last year's Magpies squad meaning they will not lack experience of playing at this level. While Ozich is not expecting to see any game time from prospective World Cup bound All Blacks Brodie Retallick and Brad Weber all other players are available for some part of the 2019 campaign.
Earlier in the year Chiefs pivot Tiaan Falcon was ruled out with a torn achilles injury suffered in Chiefs pre-season while former Baby Blacks loosie Will Tremain requires six months rehabilitation after shoulder surgery.
The Magpies play Manawatu in Palmerston North on Sunday for the Kel Tremain Memorial Trophy before returning for their first home game of the season against the Wellington Lions on McLean Park on August 16.
The full Magpies Mitre 10 Cup squad is:
Ash Dixon, Ben May, Brad Weber, Brendon O'Connor, Brodie Retallick, Caleb Makene, Danny Toala, Devan Flanders, Elijah Martin, Folau Fakatava, Gareth Evans, Geoff Cridge, Hannon Brighouse, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Jacob Devery, Jason Long, Joel Hintz, Jonah Lowe, Josh Kaifa, Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe, Kianu Kereru-Symes, Lincoln McClutchie, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Mason Emerson, Michael Allardice, Namatahi Waa, Neria Fomai, Ollie Sapsford, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Ricky Hayes, Saia Paese, Sam McNicol, Solomone Funaki, Stacey Ili, Tim Farrell, Timo Vaiusu, Tom Parsons, Tyrone Dodd-Edwards, Zac Donaldson.