ARANUI/EASTERN EAGLES 2018 SEASON PREVIEW
New coach, new name, back to their spiritual home – 2018 is all about positive change and bringing back tradition out Aranui way.
Known as Aranui Eagles since 2006, the club’s premiers are set to go by the Eastern Eagles moniker this year.
As Eastern Suburbs, the club won premierships in 1975 and a 1979-81 ‘three-peat’, and a former Eastern Suburbs player of the 1990s, Eddie Timo-Latu, has taken on the coaching duties.
“It has its challenges, but I was keen to do it and passionate to do it so I had no worries transitioning into the role,” said Timo-Latu, who also coached junior teams at the club for several seasons.
“I’ve been away from the game for three or four years.”
There has been significant player turnover at the club – most notably with Rockcote Canterbury Bulls half Tama Walker returning from Celebration, and Vinnie Paul heading to Northern.
But Timo-Latu is excited about the enthusiasm of his new-look squad, which has been amplified by the club’s return to its refurbished Wainoni Park headquarters.
“We’ve had an awesome pre-season – my understanding is it’s one of the best they’ve had,” he said.
“It’s really positive, it’s good to be back at home. The boys have been buzzing about it.
“As a team, our focus from the beginning was hard work. We need to work hard – if anything, harder than any other team.”
The Eagles have not qualified for the finals since 2012, culminating in a seventh-place finish last season that garnered just three wins.
But Timo-Latu has no doubts about where the Eagles need to start if they’re to claw their way up the Massetti Cup ladder.
“Obviously three wins is not good enough, but the only thing I can do is encourage them to stay positive and motivated,” the coach explained.
“I watched a couple of games last year and our discipline is something we need to work on.
“With that in mind I’ve created quite a big leadership team around our premiers this year to rein all that kind of (poor discipline) in.
“It’s about being positive and motivating each other, creating that Eastern culture that’s always been there, bringing that back to the team.
“Discipline let us down last year but it’s something we’ve focused on in the pre-season for this year.”
The Eastern Eagles’ new direction faces a stern first-up test with a road trip to Murphy Park to take on a Northern Bulldogs outfit bolstered by a few ‘name’ players.
But Timo-Latu is fizzing to see his side, co-captained by fullback Longe Faalilo and lock Mikaere Ropiha, take the field in their first competitive match.
“I’m really excited about the first game, the boys are buzzing too. I’m happy with where we’re at, but it’s all about building at this stage.”
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)
2018 Coach: Eddie Timo-Latu
Last season: 7th (3 wins, 11 losses)