The Tigers broke a 17-year title drought under the tutelage of Shane Endacott in 2015, but the local legend knows he has a tough task ahead of him leading a new-look line-up to back-to-back premierships.

Coach: Shane Endacott

Last season: 1st and premiers (won 14, lost 2, drew 1)

Pre-season: “(It’s been) up and down, it’s always hard to get guys motivated without playing,” Endacott says. “We’ve probably had an average pre-season to be honest, in the pre-season tournament we got knocked out in the second round. We had two good physical games, but on the day Linwood were too good and probably deserved to win by more.”

Key gains: Roger Tafua (returned from Australia), Jaye Pukepuke, Dan Moevao (Halswell), Tanu Suavine (Halswell), Jules Webley (Canberra Raiders)

Key losses: Darren Tonihi, Wiremu Weepu, Duane Wineti

2016 squad: “Like most clubs, you lose five or six, so my idea is that if you lose six you’ve at least got to recruit six or you tend to go backwards. We’ve brought in Roger Taufua and Jaye Pukepuke, they’re coming back from Australia with a lot of experience and … Dan Moevao and Tanu (Suavine) from Halswell, they’re going to be good for us.

“We’ve got Jules Webley, a young fulla that spent a bit of time in Canberra. He spent two years on a sheep station in Queenstown and is now doing a university degree at Lincoln, so we’ve managed to get him on board. And we’ve recruited three rugby boys, which is always nice – it means league in general is gaining three guys – and they all seem to be fairly good players.

“Apart from size up front, the other equation we factored in our recruiting was youth. We’ve got a lot of players nearing the end of their career, which is something the club’s conscious of. (A lot of our recruits) are in their early-20s, and we’ll be looking at blooding a lot of those guys this year, so when we do get retirements we’re not left with a massive hole.

“It was a shame we lost Darren Tonihi from the halves. It means James Wihongi, who played all his football at fullback for us last year will have to move into the halves – which he did for the Bulls and did very well. We’ll have Izic Placid and James in the halves and Josh Carr at 9; they’ll be the three generals in our side.”

Goals: “We’ve now got a target on our back, and winning last year’s grand final, teams do definitely lift so we’ve got to be on the top of our game. It’s certainly more difficult for sure (to go back-to-back), it was a big motivation last year after not winning many games (in 2014) and suddenly winning a lot of games. I played that card last year and I won’t be able to play it this year. It’s well known that trying to win two grand finals in a row is extremely difficult, and most of that’s due to motivation. These guys have been there and done that, so they have to find what motivates them and I’ll have to pull the strings when needed. We’ll find a way, mate.”

Round 1: v Northern Bulldogs @ Papanui Domain 2, Saturday 2:30pm – “We won’t be taking them lightly, they’ve got a new coach, who I played a lot of football with at premier level. (Te Hira Niha’s) a very tough competitor, brings a lot of passion and I think they’ll be a much better side than they were last year. I’d say they’ll be very tough and aggressive in the middle, and it’s not a side I really wanted to play first up to be honest. But it’ll be a really good hit-out for our guys. We’ll certainly have to turn up to beat them.”

Papanui Tigers
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