Halfway through their season, the Otamatea Hawks U14s lived up to their reputation as a formidable side with an 86-19 victory against Tikipunga in Kaiwaka on Saturday, June 29.
The Hawks ran their larger opponents around from side to side across the field to make good use of their superior speed.
Despite the success on the day, coach Harris said this season had been a lot more ‘interesting’ for the U14 Hawks, thanks to a strong challenger in the form of a revitalised Hora Hora, which has been garrisoned with players from Mid Western Rugby Club.
The players that now comprise the U14 Hawks went unbeaten for two years, but have suffered two very narrow losses to Hora Hora this season.
“A lot of Hora Hora’s U14s have also returned from last season, whereas our boys are last year’s U13s,” Harris says.
The Hawks team is also down from 26 players to 17 due to injury, including talented centre K.J. Joseph who has a broken ankle.
But Harris says the goal is to finish in the top two and face Hora Hora again in the playoffs, which seems like a probable outcome given the current results and standings tables.
Otamatea Hawks junior rugby is in very good health, with numbers having grown across the divisions from 18 players to 75 in the three years since it was established.
The club draws junior players from Rodney, Mangawhai and Tomarata and is well on track towards its goal of regenerating its senior teams.
“We couldn’t do it without the parents, who are covering 80 kilometres and travelling 40 minutes one way to get to training, but are always getting their boys there.”
Harris says the team is taking the season one match at a time and, along with coach Karl Goodfellow and trainer Reece Riri, they are doing their homework and adapting play style.
“Rugby training is not just about running paddocks anymore,” he says.