If someone were to accidentally reveal the secrets behind the success of the Napier Old Boys Marist premier rugby team it would be a rookie like Ricky Hayes.
The Hawke's Bay Insurances Limited-sponsored outfit are unbeaten this season and have extended their club record to 25 consecutive wins. But Hayes, 19, was quick to point out there was no radical secret formula behind this run which could be bottled and sold as a fundraiser.
"We just gel well together, have lots of fun together and we've got good coaches who keep leading us in the right way," said Hayes, who is in his first full season with the team after playing for the colts club side last year.
A versatile flanker equally at home on the open or blind side of the scrum, Hayes can also play lock if required.
"There are so many good players in this team I just consider myself lucky to get a start in any position," Hayes said.
It was while playing lock he produced a player-of-the-match performance in NOBM's 54-10 win against Northfuels Central at Park Island on Saturday. This saw Hayes grab a share of third place on the leaderboard and become the 11th weekly winner as the battle to become the 2017 holder of the McDonalds-Hawke's Bay Today Club Rugby Player of the Year award continued.
Central trailed 14-10 at halftime but as the Green Machine has done so often before during the past two seasons, it increased the tempo in the second half and romped away.
"Central had some big boys and I felt it after playing the full 80 against them. I'm expecting another tough one like that when we try and get another win in the mud at Anderson Park against Havelock North this weekend," Hayes said.
The fact the 2016 Hawke's Bay under-19 rep got 15 minutes off the pine for the Hawke's Bay Saracens against Wairarapa Bush on Monday is an indication he has already been identified as a potential Magpie. But Hayes refused to look too far ahead.
"I would like to play for the Saracens later in the year but the first priority is to help NOBM win another Maddison Trophy."
Hayes witnessed the joy last year's Maddison Trophy win brought to supporters at McLean Park after playing for the NOBM Colts side which lost their final to Clive in the curtainraiser.
The Taradale High School product is proof one doesn't have to attend a Super 8 school to succeed in the Hawke's Bay representative rugby system. In fact it wasn't until his later years at secondary school that Hayes got serious about rugby after being a Hawke's Bay age-group basketball rep up to under-17 level during his younger days.
A Hawke's Bay Sevens rep last summer, Hayes has yet to decide whether it's sevens or 15s he has the most potential in.
"Sevens got me fit for our pre-season training and I would like to continue both if possible. But I will just go with the flow . . . winning that Maddison Trophy is all I'm worried about for now as far as rugby is concerned."
Out of rugby Hayes is focused on the first year of his boat-building apprenticeship with Dickey Boats in Napier. One of his workmates is NOBM forwards coach Steve Bennett.
"We try and keep the rugby talk as quiet as possible. We don't want to upset our other workmates," Hayes added.
Best & fairest
■ NOBM v Central: 3, Ricky Hayes (NOBM); 2, Johnny Lauano (NOBM); 1, Marcus Jackson (Central).
■ Hastings v Havelock North: 3, Fale Matamata (Hastings); 2, Warwick Slingsby (Hastings); 1, Bronson Primmer (Havelock).
■ Taradale v Tamatea: 3, Yoshihito Sato (Taradale); 2, Ash Robinson-Bartlett (Tamatea); 1, Kurt Taylor (Taradale).
■Pirate v MAC: 3, Aaron McPhee (Pirate); 2, Fa'alemiga Selesele (MAC); 1, Gerome Naera (Pirate).
■ Tech v Clive: 3, Tamati Samuels (Tech); 2, Todd Cushing (Tech); 1, Jorian Tangaere (Clive).
Leaderboard: 12 points: Fale Matamata (Hastings). 9: Jonty Strong (Havelock), Isaiah Martin, Kaleb Sweet (both Tech). 8: Ricky Hayes (NOBM), Jesse Paewai (Havelock). 7: Cole Eru (Central), Aaron McPhee (Pirate).