Following their extra-time loss in the 2015 grand final, the Keas have signalled their intentions by taking out the pre-season Challenge Cup. Recently-appointed Canterbury Bulls coach Andrew Auimatagi has a number of key additions at his disposal as the club aims to go one better in the 2016 Masetti Cup.

 Coach: Andrew Auimatagi

Last season: 2nd and runners-up (won 11, lost 4, drew 1)

Pre-season: “It was good to test out a few combinations and just get the boys out on the paddock, I think they really enjoyed it. Just looking forward to the regular season to start now.”

Key gains: Chris Bamford (Celebration), Daniel Hartley (Aranui), Isaac Misky (Dunedin), Toi Sepuloni (Cowra – NSW Group 10)

Key losses: Eddie Enosa (Celebration),

2016 squad: “We’ve got nearly everyone back (from last year), so I’m looking forward to seeing the other new faces fit in. I’m pretty happy with how things are going so far. Matt Sauni tore his pec muscle last year so he won’t be back until the second round, and Jiordan (Fidow-Kele) had a recent knee operation and should be back within a month. We had a few guys out with niggly injuries that needed to be fixed up, so it was a good chance for a few other guys to get a shot in the Challenge Cup; they impressed so it will be tough to pick a team this year, which is always good.”

Goals: “We’ve got a few new guys in the mix now, so we’re definitely looking and learning from last season but moving forward with the new challenges ahead. Hopefully we can get off to a good start. Just playing consistent footy and aiming for the top four, which is a whole other competition in itself.”

Round 1: v Aranui Eagles @ Wainoni Park 1, Saturday 2:30pm – “It was a good, tough battle on Saturday. They always lift their game against us, so it’s going to be another tough one. Physically we’ve got to be on our game and play a bit cleaner this week and keep the pressure on them.”

Linwood Keas
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