The Bay of Plenty Steamers development squad may not be playing in the Mitre 10 Cup but their coach is confident they have players ready for the opportunity.
Former Steamers captain Culum Retallick has named a well rounded squad for his 2019 development team, now known as Bay of Plenty Ngāwhā, and he, along with assistant coaches Pingi Taalapitanga and Phil Falamoe are determined to prepare his players for the move to the Mitre 10 Cup environment.
"Normally, there are a big group of guys sitting around doing nothing at this time of year after club rugby finishes. From the players point of view, it's going to be exciting. In our team there are some very good players," Retallick says.
Playing in the development competition, they first face North Harbour - a team they know very little about.
"In all honesty, we haven't had this competition for four years. So, to be fair, I'm not too sure what they're like. But I know all the teams that are in the competition are in the same boat."
Last weekend Ngāwhā defeated Waikato 47-7 in their last pre-season game but despite the comfortable win, Retallick says there is still room for improvement.
"We were pretty wrapped but it's only a preseason game. There is no need to get too excited, we were happy to give it a crack, because we have only had five trainings together," Retallick says.
Retallick, who played more than 100 games for the Steamers, says his players will have plenty of opportunity to impress Steamers coach Clayton McMillan.
"Guys who can definitely step up to the next level. What we want is them playing well week-in and week-out. Clayton has made a commitment to our team that if there are any injuries or anything like that, then they are going to pick within our group. There is going to be injuries so, there is going to be opportunities," said McMillan.
The side sees a number of players who have been rewarded for their impressive showings during the club season, and Retallick says there are a number of players rugby enthusiasts will want to see excel.
"I definitely think our loose forwards, all of them are good enough players. There are already playing up at Mitre 10 Cup level. There is no denying that. Two of them are New Zealand 20s players. Mungo Mason was a Tauranga Boys' College captain who has been overseas. He's come back and trying to make his mark.
"In the backs we've got some really young talent in the midfield and on the wings with a lot of promise, like Seamus Bardoul. He can make the move up.
"We, as coaches, are making sure we are highly organised. Every week we are having dialogue with the Steamers coaches around players. We have our own video analyst, and the boys get the opportunity to view the game and do their homework. So, if they do get the opportunity to move up, they are not out of their depth."
2019 Bay of Plenty Ngāwhā squad:
Seamus Bardoul (Tauranga Sports), Declan Barnett (Te Puke Sports), Kaydin Budd (Te Puna), Taniela Filimone (Rangataua), Kohan Herbert (Mount Maunganui Sports - vice-captain), Tyrone Keith (Tauranga Sports), Brody Lam (Greerton Marist), Gordie Lloyd (Te Puna), Iosefa Maloney (Greerton Marist), Mungo Mason (overseas), Jesse Mason-Grant (Whakarewarewa), Reece Macdonald (Te Puna), Kody McGovern (Greerton Marist), Jaya More (Whakarewarewa), Liam Morrison (Te Puna), Jeriah Mua (Tauranga Sports - vice-captain), Carl Perry (Mount Maunganui Sports), Jonas Petrakopoulos (Greerton Marist)
Pierre Pili (Greerton Marist), Jonas Pomare (Mount Maunganui Sports), Dennon Robinson-Bartlett (Whakarewarewa), Justin Sangster (Te Puna), Toni Toia (Tauranga Sports), Te Aihe Toma (Te Puna - captain), Etonia Waqa (Te Puna).
Head Coach: Culum Retallick.
Assistant Coaches: Pingi Taalapitaga, Phil Falamoe.
Manager: David Gorrie.
Campaign Manager: Regan Innis.
Physio: Victor Malbon.
Bay of Plenty Ngāwhā schedule:
August 24: v North Harbour, Windsor Park, Albany, 2.30pm.
August 31: v Auckland, Tauranga Domain, 2.30pm.
September 7: v Counties Manukau, Karaka Sports Park, 2.30pm.
September 14: v Auckland, Rugby Park Whakatane, 12.30pm.
September 21: v Northland, Dargaville, 2.30pm.
September 28: v Taranaki, Tauranga Domain, 12pm.