Napier Old Boys Marist speedster Liam Edwards believes the door to Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team selection remains open for him.
If he can crack the Hawke's Bay Sevens squad and shine at the December 14 and 15 National Sevens in Tauranga that will enhance his chances. To make the Bay team Edwards, 27, needs to be among the best players at the fourth annual Napier Old Boys Marist Invitation Sevens tournament at Park Island today.
"This is the first year I have committed to the Hawke's Bay Sevens programme. If I can make the nationals squad, play well and have a really good year of club rugby I'll be knocking on the Magpies door," Edwards said.
A father of two who works as a salesman for McFall Fuel, Edwards is excited about the Green Machine's chances of a fourth consecutive title today. He played in their first two title wins but missed last year's tournament as he was still recovering from foot surgery.
"We know this weekend's tournament is going to be very competitive in both pools but we want to finish what has been a good year for us with another title," Edwards explained.
"We've got a good mix of guys. We've got speed and a little bit of size. We know there will be teams that will be bigger and stronger than us so it is important we hold onto the ball."
He pointed out their game plan will be similar to previous years. They will rely a lot on Hawke's Bay forward Ricky Hayes to secure the ball in the air at reception time.
Hayes and fellow key forwards Chris Johnston, who is back from his suspension, Matt Gardner and Will Tremain, who has returned after shoulder surgery, will have the job of protecting the ball and creating space for the likes of Edwards and fellow speedsters Zac Donaldson and Saia Paese to strut their stuff.
A former South Canterbury 15s representative who moved to the Bay in 2014, Edwards represented Otago at the 2012 National Sevens tournament in Queenstown. He scored 18 tries during the last 15s club season in a memorable return after missing most of the 2018 season because of his foot injury.
In April last year he reached for a vase in the pantry and dropped it on his foot. It severed the main tendon between his knee and toe. It took three hours of surgery to reattach it and stitch it up.
A six-week stint in a cast was followed by another six weeks in a moon boot and then four months of rehab before Edwards returned to action with NOBM at last February's 16-team Wavell Wakefield Middlesex County Cup national club sevens tournament.
The winning team at today's tournament will qualify for the February 7 and 8 edition of the national club sevens in Wellington.
"I'm still getting a little bit of physio for the foot but I'm feeling the best I've felt for a long time," Edwards said.
"In addition to my Hawke's Bay and club sevens training I've been doing extra work on my own in the gym. I've also been putting a lot of work into my speed."
NOBM will be among 10 senior and eight colts teams in action today.
NOBM and Hawke's Bay Sevens men's coach Ellery Wilson has had a Hawke's Bay squad training for the past four weeks in the buildup to next month's national provincial tournament in Tauranga so is well placed to comment on who could provide NOBM with their toughest competition.
He believes last year's runners-up MAC, as well as Havelock North, have enough ammunition to reach the final. Havelock North have the likes of Latrell Ah Kiong, Ryan Tongia, Trent Hape, Anzelo Tuitavuki and Jacob Stephenson.
While MAC will miss two of last year's kingpins, Johnny Ika and Solomone Funaki, who are attending a family reunion in Tonga, they still have Tom Iosefo, Fa'alemiga Selesele and Alatasi Tupou.
This season the respective winners of the two pools in the senior men's grade will battle for the first prize of $2500. NOBM are in the same pool as Havelock North, MAC Two, Hawke's Bay Fijians One and Napier Technical.
MAC One are in the same pool as Hastings Rugby and Sports, Bridge Pa, Hawke's Bay Fijians Two and Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports.
In the colts grade, NOBM One are in the same pool as defending champions Feilding High School, Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports One and Havelock North. Hastings Rugby and Sports will start as favourites in the other pool which will also include NOBM Two, Lindisfarne College and Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports Two.
The senior men's final is scheduled for 4.20pm.