East Out To Protect Unbeaten Record
When the East v West representative clash makes its return at Canterbury Park on Saturday after a six-year absence, the combatants will be playing for pride and passion for their local community, as well as a handful of spots that remain in the Rockcote Canterbury Bulls’ NZRL National Premiership squad.
For East, there’s also the small matter of protecting an unbeaten record in four previous showdowns against West, who will be equally hell-bent on pulling off their first-ever win in the fixture.
Steve Fenika is in charge of East for Saturday’s historic clash, and the Celebration Lions coach said the team is coming together nicely.
“The boys are really keen to get back into the East-West fixture,” Fenika enthused.
“A few boys hadn’t played in a while, so we went through a few ball drills (on Tuesday), the energy was good, and the attitude was good, too.
“I know a few of the boys from around the league scene, there’s probably only four of five I didn’t really know – it’s pretty easy to get in with this group.”
Fenika intends for his team to draw upon passion for their local area and play for the league-loving residents of the East side of town – many of whom have endured hardships in recent years.
“That’s something that we touched on at the first training and we’ll talk about it more in our preparation – who we’re representing, and also the tough times we’ve had on this side of town, especially with the earthquakes,” Fenika said.
“I know a few of the boys’ families are still (struggling) with some of the (earthquake) stuff, so it’s a good chance for us to represent them through the sport we play.
“But there’s a lot of passion there from the boys anyway, representing the East.”
While retaining the East v West shield is the top priority, several players will have one eye on the higher honours courtesy of a standout individual showing.
A 19-man preliminary Rockcote Canterbury Bulls squad was named last week in conjunction with the East and West teams, meaning there is still four places available for the Bulls’ NZRL National Premiership campaign.
“This a big game given the history, East haven’t lost this game before so we want to win it first,” Fenika explained, “but I know there’s a few boys there looking at getting into those four spots so they’ll be going out all guns blazing.”
Fenika knows, however, that similar motivations – crosstown pride, rep opportunities and the prospect of a maiden win in the clash – will be driving the star-studded West side.
Nine players from CRL premiership runners-up Hornby, headlined by Corey Lawrie and the Spooner brothers, are in West’s squad, as well as three Tigers, three Knights and four Hornets.
East’s 19-man squad contains six players from Fenika’s Celebration side, five players from the premiership-winning Linwood Keas, five Aranui Eagles and two Northern Bulldogs.
But arguably the most notable selection in either side is winger Jayson Sila, who earned a spot on the flank after a stellar season in the Canterbury Cup for Shirley Hawks.
“I’ve heard some good things about him, he was full of energy (at training) and keen to get into it,” Fenika said.
“I’m just keen to see how goes after taking to the reserves coaches from our club this season – they said he did some good things.”
Among the front-line contenders for a Bulls call-up is five-eighth Toi Sepuloni, who helped steer the Keas to a second straight grand final triumph less than a fortnight ago. He teams up in the halves for East with Bulldogs No.7 Te Wano Thomas.
Meanwhile, Fenika said it’s West’s ultra-experienced halves combination – Halswell’s Sean Scott and Hornby’s Sean Spooner – that his team needs to keep quiet.
“They’ll be able to direct the West forwards around, so I think their halves will play a big part.”
EAST v WEST HISTORY
2008 – East 42 d West 32
2009 – East 38 d West 30
2010 – East 24 d West 20
2011 – East 26 d West 18
1 Longe Fa’alilo (Eagles)
2 Junior Salevao (Lions)
3 Graeme Patu-Vaega’au (Keas)
4 Cameron Godfrey (Bulldogs)
5 Jayson Sila (Hawks)
6 Toi Sepuloni (Keas)
7 Te Wano Thomas (Bulldogs)
8 Kyle Leka (Lions)
9 Jordan Wawatai (Lions)
10 Zion Tauamati (Eagles)
11 Joseph Mika (Linwood)
12 Francis Tuiletufuga (Lions)
13 Michael Nicholls-Cane (Keas)
14 Eddy Enose (Keas)
15 Uriah Esau (Eagles)
16 Taniela Leka (Lions)
17 TJ Jackson (Eagles)
18 Feleti Amosa (Eagles)
19 Kaiona Panapa (Lions)
Coach: Steve Fenika (Lions)
1 Aaron Fiveash (Hornets)
2 Chris Eric (Panthers)
3 Benaiah Crichton (Tigers)
4 Gene Spooner (Panthers)
5 Ben Ilalio (Hornets)
6 Sean Scott (Hornets)
7 Sean Spooner (Panthers)
8 Damien Papuni (Panthers)
9 Justin Lynch (Knights)
10 Isaac Maliota (Tigers)
11 Hayden Blackley (Knights)
12 Will Tafua (Panthers)
13 Corey Lawrie (Panthers)
14 Kolio Vailu’u (Knights)
15 Charlie Charlie (Panthers)
16 Caleb Tohovaka (Panthers)
17 Peni Mo’ale (Panthers)
18 Jason Galland (Hornets)
19 Tanu Suavine (Tigers)
Coach: Rob Faalilo (Hornets)