Brought to you by Whanganui Rugby
You're more likely to find them discussing Hawaiian shirts than studying videos of their set-piece, but no Tasman Tanning Senior team should sleep on the Marist Buffalos in 2021.
The "thirds" team of Whanganui Marist RFC, "the Buffs" are an eclectic mix of former Steelform Wanganui rep stars, enthusiastic rookies, lapsed players returning for the first time since under-13s, and honest toilers who have been with the squad a decade.
Their continued existence this year is a credit to mother hen Renee Nepia, wife of stalwart player Tom, who upon discovering in December they were likely to have only 10 players, rallied a dozen others plus sponsors around the flag.
Ryan Gill, the 2016 Premier MVP, was unavailable after a suffering a broken back in a serious accident.
He approached Jerome McCrea, multiple roles with the club and WRFU, to act as head coach, with McCrea supported by his own former coach Trevor Bailey, while Whanganui assistant coach Jason Hamlin also lends a helping hand when available.
"We're a very social team – one training a week and that seems to be optional," McCrea said.
"Our trainings are going awesome. Just Thursdays, that suits a lot of the guys.
"Just basic stuff – catch, pass, tackle.
"Give [Renee] a shout out – talk about unsung heroes.
"It's just a real mix of all walks of life."
Between them, Nepia and McCrea helped pull in a host of retired Premier players, like 50-plus capped Whanganui wingers Cameron Crowley and Simon Dibben.
Aiden Fitzgerald and Marek Willis are also back, although injuries are leaving several veterans to point out their "part-time" status.
"We have heaps of fun," said McCrea.
"We've got a dress up theme every week – we got beachwear on Saturday, so hopefully it warms up a bit. Last week was blazers."
But as results suggest, on the day, the Buffs' competitive spirit can still be stirred.
They opened the season under lights at the Country Club against Gemini Pepper Construction Kaierau, and were in it for a long time before going down 31-16.
A late try brought them in striking distance of Bennett's Taihape before a 19-12 loss at Spriggens Park, and then it was back under lights at Dallison Park to meet a confident Border team, who they smoked 36-10.
While they showed deference to clubmates Ali Arc Logistics-DNA Kennels Marist Celtic in a 29-12 derby loss, the Buffalos then dealt the playoff chances of Utiku Old Boys a heavy blow with a 25-5 win at Spriggens Park last weekend.
"We're going to have a crack at everyone we play," said McCrea.
They will face winless Speirs Food Marton in the Spriggens curtain-raiser to Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist v Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri on Saturday.
May 22, 1pm kickoffs (times subject to change): Ratana v Pirates, Ratana Pa; Hunterville v Border, Hunterville; Taihape v Kaierau, Memorial Park 1; Utiku OB v Celtic, Memorial Park 2; Buffalos v Marton, Spriggens Park; Ruapehu v Counties, Rochfort Park.
It's going to take a little more time in the saddle before the St John's Whanganui Metro Women are riding strong after their short MRU season ended last Saturday.
Metro were beaten 57-0 at Bush Sports Park by the home side Bush SC, who with their first win of the four-match campaign took the last semifinal berth for this Saturday against unbeaten Kia Toa RFC.
Feilding Old Boys Women will meet Massey RFC in the other playoff game.
Metro coach Tama Te Patu was only able to attend the first half, with the inexperienced Metro down around 30-0 at the break, and said they are still learning how to build pressure for points.
"Just a couple of individual girls [got close], but no support. They'd get caught out and couldn't carry on the movement.
"They tried their best.
"Sos [Sosoli Talawadua] has been teaching individual skills in modules. But that's things you learn coming up through the grades, not senior rugby."
While the young squad has never lacked for numbers, they are not able to attend all the same training sessions, meaning lineups change from week to week, and most have only started learning the game in the past two seasons.
Talawadua, the former Black Fern, focused on helping coach rather than playing this campaign, while injury robbed the team of their other senior heads, leaving the inexperienced youngsters to find their own way in games.
Metro will meet Bush SC again in a fortnight in a friendly for their club day, and Te Patu hopes they will secure other matches later this season.
"As long as they get on the field and learn the game. As long as the girls are there, we'll hang in there."
In the MRU Colts grade, Whanganui Metro (4-0-1) will come off the bye looking to regain their place at the top of the table at the end of the first round, but it will be a tough ask playing away to Freyberg Old Boys (2-2-1) at Colquhoun Park.
Defending champions the Feilding Yellows (4-2-0) will take the last bye of the round after they moved ahead of Metro by hammering Dannevirke Sports Club 53-6.