CRL 2019 PREVIEW: COACH CONFIDENT NEW-LOOK HORNETS WON’T LOSE STING
Halswell Hornets were one of the big improvers of the 2018 Massetti Cup, putting back-to-back wooden spoons firmly in the rearview mirror by finishing in the top four for the first time since 2014.
But a comprehensive 50-6 minor semi-final exit at the hands of Hornby was a stark reminder of how far the Hornets still have to go to compete with Canterbury Rugby League’s big guns – and a high player turnover will present another challenge for the club this season.
Long-serving coach Rob Faalilo remains upbeat about his team’s 2019 prospects, however.
“The pre-season’s been pretty good for us, the boys have been working pretty well over the last few months,” said Faalilo, who heads into his fifth season at the helm of Halswell.
“We probably didn’t get enough trials – we had a game booked in for March 16th, but obviously with the tragic events that had to be postponed and we weren’t able to reschedule that one.
“We had a trial with (the Bulldogs) in mid-February and the boys had a good hit-out in that game.”
Captain Jason Galland has relocated to Wellington, while pointscoring machine Sean Scott is currently in Australia – though Faalilo is hopeful the playmaker will return at some stage during the season.
Willie Davis headlines a contingent of Hornets that have headed to rugby union.
But the club has made several handy pick-ups and will have the likes of Ken Tofilau, Brad Austin, Jaye Pukepuke and Nick Evans again to form a solid nucleus.
Viliami Tai comes across from Northern to bolster the pack, while Austin – who was selected for Canada at the end of last year – is set to be joined in the halves by younger brother Corey.
St Thomas’ product Brodie Floris returns to the region after a season with Group 2 club Coffs Harbour and further reinforcement comes from players arriving from Cairns, West Coast and Taranaki.
“At this stage we’ve got a reasonably young side but we believe we’ve got enough experience to steer the ship,” Faalilo affirmed.
“Certainly having a number of changes in the squad hasn’t helped but in saying that we’ve had some really good players come into the squad.
“We’ve still got a lot of up-and-coming players in our reserves, so we’re lucky we’ve got a bit more depth at the club than we’ve had in previous years.”
The Hornets’ first Massetti Cup assignment is away to Papanui Tigers on Saturday.
After losing their first two games in 2018, Faalilo emphasised the importance in not giving their rivals too much of a head-start this time around.
“It’s critical for everyone to get that first win under your belt and (perform) in those first few games. We’re a young side, Papanui are going to be hard to beat at home, but I’ve got no doubt the boys are up to the task.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge we’ve got ahead of us.”