Auimatagi: Bulls Spots Still Open For Barbarians This Weekend
Rockcote Canterbury Bulls coach Andrew Auimatagi said all four remaining spots in the squad for the upcoming NZRL National Premiership are still up for grabs, despite some standout individual performances in the revived East v West clash last Saturday.
A preliminary 19-man Rockcote Canterbury Bulls squad was named two weeks ago, and after West’s historic golden point win over East, a composite Barbarians team has been selected to face the Bulls in a trial at Halswell Domain on Saturday.
The 2pm match is a key feature of the Rugby League World Cup Festival Day, which is being held at the ground from 10am and includes junior games from 9s up to 12s, while former Warriors and Kiwis star Clinton Toopi will be attending along with the RLWC trophy.
Auimatagi believes the East-West showdown fulfilled the brief: providing a tremendous, hard-fought spectacle, while also helping put his Bulls puzzle together.
“I thought it was great, the quality was high and it allowed us to see how certain people measured up against other guys,” he said.
“A lot of the guys really enjoyed it and hopefully it’s something we keep as an annual thing.
“There was definitely some guys that put their hand up (for Bulls selection), but the big thing is seeing how they measure up against the 17 or 18 Bulls we have lining up this week.
“There’s definitely some guys we’re already looking at, but all four spots are still really open.”
The already-selected Rockcote Canterbury Bulls squad members have not played since the August 13 CRL premiers grand final or earlier, and Auimatagi is eager for the team to get a solid hit-out against the Barbarians ahead of their NZRL National Premiership opener a fortnight later.
“I’ve been really impressed with the intensity the guys are training at, so I think they’re itching to get out there on the field this weekend,” the coach enthused.
“We’ve discussed how we want to play the game, we definitely want to be playing at a high tempo and pushing the speed of the game.”
But Auimatagi is expecting the Barbarians side to come out firing – although it has been billed as an exhibition match, there is plenty at stake.
“There’s always that element of competition for spots in games like this, which is healthy for our representative program.
“If we’ve got guys that are aspiring to reach the Bulls, I think it’s going to put our game in a good place so I’m really excited to see this fixture, and I’m sure the players in the Barbarians team are looking forward to it as well.”
The scheduling of the Bulls-Barbarians clash alongside the Rugby League World Cup Festival Day only enhances the sense of occasion, and Auimatagi implored the Canterbury Rugby League community to come out in force to Halswell Domain for the day’s festivities.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere, and hopefully we get a lot of the juniors hanging around to watch our game as well,” he said.
“The Bulls and Barbarians players will be there from mid-morning to be involved and support the juniors, so it’s going to be a great day.”
The Rockcote Canterbury Bulls play their first NZRL National Premiership game at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on September 17 against Counties Manukau Stingrays.
Rugby League World Cup Festival Day – Saturday, September 2 @ Halswell Domain from 10am
Rockcote Canterbury Bulls v Barbarians – Saturday, September 2 @ Halswell Domain, 2pm