The QBE North Harbour Mitre 10 Cup side is bucking the trend once again by selecting a squad with home-grown roots and plenty of history in the province.
In the 32-man squad confirmed today, a total of 16 players attended high school in the North Harbour region and many have family links to the team.
The squad has retained the majority of players from 2019 when they finished fifth in the Premiership, but have also gained through a number of players earning more experience in Super Rugby teams and wider training groups.
Dillon Hunt and Bryn Gatland were at the Highlanders, Shaun Stevenson featured at the Chiefs, while Murphy Taramai was at the Hurricanes, having previously played for the Blues and also the All Blacks Sevens.
At the Super Rugby Aotearoa winning Crusaders was 22-year-old loose forward, Ethan Roots along with halfback Bryn Hall.
Hall has 78 appearances for QBE North Harbour and is one of a group of seven players in the squad who have played over 30 times for the province.
The Blues had a number of Harbour players featuring strongly with the likes of Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Karl Tu’inukuafe and Sione Mafileo mainstays of the side while 22-year-old Jacob Pierce put in some hard-hitting appearances as well. Pierce is a potential star of the future at over two metres tall and in excess of 115kg. His father, Scott was a North Harbour player during the 1980’s and 90’s with 74 appearances for the team.
Of note is that there are three sets of brothers in the squad; Cowley-Tuioti, Gerard and Xavier, Lotu and Fine Inisi as well as the Roots, Ethan and Jimmy.
Captain for the 2020 season is Highlanders flanker, Hunt who has a busy time coming up with the North vs South game before returning to his home province to lead the team.
“It’s a fairly young side. Guys have been rewarded for what they’ve done in clubs,” said 25-year-old Hunt. “We’ve retained a pretty solid group of core leaders, it’s a pretty exciting squad and I’m keen to see what we can do. Even last year we didn’t have as many big names as the other teams, but we were able to compete with them and that’s a lot down to the way we were preparing and the way the buy into it and the young guys fitting in.”
For Hunt the ‘home’ factor and provincial pride represents a lot to him and to the players in the squad.
“It means a lot to people growing up here who have watched the team when they were younger are now part of it. I think it’s pretty special to get guys from the region or have been in the region in the past. It shows there is a clear pathway. I’m very proud…to be a leader in the team, I got a bit of experience last year and I’m looking forward to it, I’ve got some great guys around me who will help me out. I’m pretty excited about where we can take this team over this year and the next couple of years.”
Head coach Kieran Keane is pleased with the group he has assembled and how fresh and keen they are to get on the field and represent their province.
“I think it’s nice they have come from the region, it’s their home and their education was here and representing the flagship team means something. We’ve managed to return the core of the team, but with some freshness as well. We’ve picked the players who are available to us locally and hopefully they get the support from the community,” said Keane.
“There is a settled element to this team. Other provinces like to target big names, we like to grow them. We could surprise a few people with what we can do.”
The home matches for QBE Harbour are the opening game of the season against Canterbury on Friday 11 September as well as against Mitre 10 Cup champions, Tasman on Sunday 4 October, Hawkes Bay Sunday 11 October, the Battle of the Bridge, Saturday 24 October and Counties Manukau Saturday 7 November.
North Harbour stalwart, James Parsons is unavailable due to concussion symptoms.
QBE Insurance continue their support of North Harbour Rugby as principal partner, with Kennards Hire NZ, Barfoot & Thompson, Paladin, Westie Pies, Benefitz, Ritchies Coachlines and North Harbour Ford as major partners of the Union. Their support alongside our other partners is critical to the ongoing success of the team and organisation.
QBE North Harbour Mitre 10 Cup Squad:
Name, club, position, height, weight, appearances.
Gerard Cowley-Tuioti (Massey) lock, 1.96m, 115kg, 56 caps, Xavier Cowley-Tuioti (Massey) lock/loose forward, 1.94m, 117kg, 1cap, Tate Evans (East Coast Bays) loose forward, 1.91m, 97kg, 2 caps, Dillon Hunt (Marist) flanker, 1.88m, 103kg, 17 caps, Lotu Inisi (Takapuna) No.8, 1.89m, 109kg, 9 caps, Sione Mafileo (North Shore) prop, 1.78m, 123kg, 53 caps, Nic Mayhew (Northcote) prop, 1.80m, 114kg, 33 caps, Teague McElroy (Northcote) prop, 1.91m, 123kg, 0 caps, Tamarau McGahan (Marist) loose forward, 1.90m, 100kg, 0 caps, Jacob Pierce (North Shore) lock/loose forward, 2.02m, 115kg, 17 caps, Ethan Roots (East Coast Bays) loose forward, 1.90m, 113 kg, 10 caps, Jimmy Roots (East Coast Bays) prop, 1.88m, 126kg, 2 caps, Mitchell Ryan (Northcote) lock/loose forward, 1.98m, 116kg, 0 caps, Tim Sail (Northcote) loose forward, 1.90m, 102kg, 0 caps, Murphy Taramai (Northcote) loose forward, 1.86m, 105kg, 41 caps, Luteru Tolai (Northcote) hooker, 1.81m, 118kg, 16 caps, Karl Tu’inukuafe (Takapuna) prop, 1.82m, 135kg, 27 caps, Zane Turner (Silverdale) hooker, 1.75m, 100kg, 0 caps.
Tomas Aoake (East Coast Bays) outside back, 1.82m, 98kg, 5 caps, Kade Banks (Takapuna) first five-eighth/fullback, 1.83m, 90kg, 0 caps, Walter Fifita (Massey) wing/centre, 1..95m, 115kg, 0 caps, Bryn Gatland (Takapuna), first/second-five-eighth, fullback 1.78m, 88kg, 31 caps, Lewis Gjaltema (East Coast Bays) halfback, 1.74m, 85kg, 21 caps, Bryn Hall (Northcote) halfback, 1.83m, 93kg, 78 caps, Jack Heighton (East Coast Bays) first five-eighth, 1.85m, 92kg, 0 caps, Fine Inisi (Takapuna) midfield, 1.81m, 96kg, 4 caps, James Little (North Shore) midfield, 1.87m, 97kg, 8 caps, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black (Marist) outside back, 1.86m, 91kg, 0 caps, Brad McNaughten (North Shore) halfback, first five-eighth, 1.86m, 85kg, 1 cap, Jared Page (East Coast Bays) utility back, 1.84m, 96kg, 3 caps, Shaun Stevenson (Northcote) outside back, 1.91m, 100kg, 30 caps, Asaeli Tikoirotuma (Northcote) outside back, 1.86m, 99kg, 9 caps.
Coach – Kieran Keane,
Assistant coach – Sam Ward,
S & C Coach – Alex King,
Manager – Peter White,
Assistant Manager – Spy Kelly,
Doctor – John Mayhew,
Kit Manager – Deano Allnutt,
Performance Analyst – Alistair Beeton,
Physio – Matt Wenham,
Physio – Jaco Pretorius,
Resource Coach - Dan Halangahu.