Central Bay of Plenty have come together and gelled quickly ahead of the first round of the Stan Meads Cup.

Their first game, at 2.30pm tomorrow, is against Hamilton at Marist Park in Rotorua.

Coach Chris Shortall said he expected some stiff competition from the Hamilton side.

"They're a Fijian-based team so we're expecting a lot of ball movement, they're big guys and very quick.


"They are very keen, we played them last year in Ngongotaha and had a really good game against them.

"We got ahead early, but started to run out of puff towards the end and they were rapidly closing on us.

"So, I'm expecting the same sort of game and for them to play an expansive game. We think their weakness is up front so we will concentrate there and we'll need a really good defensive line, especially the back three.

"We've picked up some really good guys there - Ethan Draper from Waikite and Jese Kondrote from St Michael's - they are very good players. I'm confident there."

Shortfall said his main criteria when selecting players for the Central Bay squad was the right level of enthusiasm.

"This is a great group of guys - the majority of them have played for the last couple of years.

"They're enthusiastic and looking forward to it, they always have a lot of fun which I think, even at the senior level, is an important component, that they enjoy the experience."

One of the hardest things for someone coaching a representative side, made up of players from different clubs, is getting them to gel in a short amount of time. However, Shortall is pleased with how his players have come together.

"The tightness and togetherness of the team is a great strength of Central Bay rugby, we're quite tight.

"Even though we're very parochial about our clubs, when we get together we really gel. I can't really explain it but the guys really get on.

"They've all got family or iwi connections and we have some great young talent in this town."

The team had a good mixture of youth and experience, Shortall said.

"We're right up to 35 years of age and all the way down to 18, there's a huge range there. As with any team, the younger guys bring that enthusiasm which sticks to the older guys who give back their experience."

This year's Stan Meads Cup originally had five teams, however Piako have pulled out, leaving Central BOP, Hamilton, Maniapoto and Peace Cup holders Te Awamutu.

Last year, after being knocked out in the semifinals by Maniapoto, Central won a playoff against Thames Valley B for the Stan Meads Bowl.

Shortall said the team was determined to go one better this year and make the final of the Stan Meads Cup. A win over Hamilton will be a big step in the right direction.