A point of difference for Bay of Plenty's Under 19 team this year is the inability to fly under the radar.
The squad, this year renamed as Bay of Plenty Toa, are the defending champions of the Jock Hobbs Memorial National Under 19 tournament, having claimed the province's first national premiership rugby title in 42 years with a 35-30 win over Canterbury in last year's final.
It was a tournament team that featured some of the country's best in their age group, including tournament MVP Kaleb Trask and athletes selected for 2019's New Zealand Under 20s squad - Lalomilo Lalomilo, Kohan Herbert, Leroy Carter and Cole Forbes and led by head coach Mike Rogers.
With a new year comes a new team and a new head coach. Bay of Plenty Rugby Union's men's player development manager James Porter may be new to this team's head coaching role, but he is no stranger to player development or the team, having been involved with the Under 19s for about three years.
He says the 2019 squad has different strengths and weaknesses to their predecessors but they describes them as an "an exciting team", with quality athletes, who like to pass the ball and play a Bay of Plenty brand of rugby that is quick. Among them are Benet Kumeroa and fellow front rowers Chris Hemi and Poukohe Sorenson Tawhara as well as 18-year-olds who will help future-proof the team such as vice captain Cassius Misa, Nikora Broughton and Tamaikoha Te Aute - all of whom Porter says are earmarked for higher honours.
Toa are the future of Bay of Plenty rugby.
"We're providing the Steamers with homegown talent," Porter says.
This weekend, Toa will be among nearly 400 of New Zealand's up and coming rugby talent heading to Taupō for the annual Jock Hobbs Memorial National Under 19 Tournament. The tournament, now in its sixth year, gets under way on Sunday and after three weeks of pre-tournament seeding matches Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Canterbury top the premiership. They're joined by Auckland Development, Waikato, Manawatu and Otago in the top eight.
Bay of Plenty's first clash is against Auckland Development and in the week leading up to the competition, preparation is more than physical training for the players.
Porter says the pressure has been on the staff to deliver all the information needed to ensure the players can do their job. He says it's been a full on week for everyone behind the scenes with people such as analyst Hannah McDonald and All Blacks Sevens performance analyst Tom Martin deciphering what needs to be done to beat their opposition. The rest of the team consists of assistant coaches Glenn Jackson and Aidan Kuka, manager Michaela Tahere, strength and conditioning coach Scott Joblin and physio Anne Conway - all of whom Porter says provide a quality environment for Toa players.
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He says having won the tournament last year means Bay of Plenty won't be flying under the radar this year.
"We're no longer the unknown."
This year's captain is former Auckland Grammar student Benet Kumeroa, who says he is honoured to be playing for the Bay and hopes to lead his side to the final and lift the Graham Mourie Cup.
Porter says his side is focused on game one against what he describes as a "powerful bunch of young men" but their overall goal is to win three games of rugby in six days.
"I think we've got a genuine shot to go close to the final again."
Bay of Plenty Toa Squad:
Benet Kumeroa (C) (Rangiuru), Chris Hemi (Te Teko), Poukohe Sorenson Tawhara (Te Puna), Hunter Wharerau (Whakarewarewa), Rory Marsh (Ngongotahā), Pena Taumata (Te Puke), Tamarau Karepa (Arataki), Louis Bruinsma (Tauranga Sports), Lockie Devereux (Rangataua), Nikora Broughton (Arataki), Malupo Ma'afu (Te Teko), Taituha Woller (Te Puna), Simione Ofa (Rotoiti), Jamaine Tawa (Judea), Jack Hollinshead (Te Puke Sports), Conor Mceldowney (Tauranga Sports), Bailey Gordon (Arataki), Cassius Misa (Te Teko), Connor Paki (Arataki), Josh Calvert (Mount Maunganui Sports), Tamaikoha Te Aute (Rangiuru), Fritz Rayasi (Arataki), Sam Tuibua (Mount Maunganui Sports), Peni Lasaqa (Tauranga Sports), Izhan Le Comte (Rangataua).
Day one fixtures:
Graham Mourie Cup:
10.45am: Manawatu vs Canterbury.
12.30pm: Wellington vs Otago.
2.15pm: Auckland vs Waikato.
4pm: Auckland Development v Bay of Plenty
Michael Jones Trophy:
10.45am: Northland vs Taranaki.
12.30pm: North Harbour vs Counties Manukau.
2.15pm: Hawke's Bay vs Southland.
4pm: Heartland vs Tasman.