Aranui Eagles 2017 Preview
Aranui Eagles are aiming for a return to the top four for the first time since 2012 – and coach Christian Swift will be relying on the players he blooded during a promising 2016 campaign to break the finals drought.
The Eagles have lost key trio Kahi Tipene, who was the side’s top try-scorer last year, Tama Walker and Patella Tou, but Swift is confident his younger brigade can step up and support the likes of Vinnie Paul, Kolone Faalilo and Benjamin Houghton.
“There’s a lot of young guys who came up last year, so being in their second year (in 2017) will help us hopefully,” said Swift, who took on the Aranui role only last year.
“There’s definitely good quality there, it’s just keeping the numbers up with injuries – that’s what hurt us last year.”
The Eagles line up against Riccarton Knights on Saturday in an intriguing season opener at QE 2 Park.
Years active (premiers division): 2006-present (formerly Eastern Suburbs – 1968-2003, 2005 and Christchurch – 1946-67)
Titles: None (Eastern Suburbs won 4 titles – 1975, 1979-81; Christchurch won 1 title – 1948)
2017 Coach: Christian Swift
Last season: 5th (4 wins, 9 losses, 1 draw)
Pre-season: “(It’s been) not too bad. We’ve got a few injuries, but we’re going alright,” Swift said.
Key gains: Clayton Waikato (Linwood)
Key losses: Tama Walker (Celebration), Patella Tou (Northern), Kahi Tipene (Riccarton)
2017 Squad: “Vinnie Paul, our captain, he’s always pretty dominant. He’ll make sure the team goes forward – he’s looking to play in the forwards this year, so we’ll see how that goes. Kolone Faalilo, he’s another one that is hopefully going to step up this year, and Benjamin Houghton is a fairly underrated player as far as Canterbury goes, but he always gets through his workload.”
2017 Goals: “I’d love to say we’re eyeing the top four, and if we can get that we’ll see how we go from there.”
Round 1: v Riccarton Knights – 2.45pm @ QE 2 Park: “I think they’ve had a few changes this year too, so I’m not really sure what to expect with them, I haven’t seen anything of them through the pre-season. We’ll just have to go out there and do what we do and hopefully we can get a win.”