Mitre 10 Cup Rd 1 - North Harbour v Counties Manukau
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 18: James Parsons of North Harbour reacts after forcing a turnover during the round one Mitre 10 Cup match between North Harbour and Counties Manukau at QBE Stadium on August 18, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

With the Mitre 10 Cup about to commence, the North Harbour Rugby team have a new mantra. “Not done yet” and it means that the side, who gained elevation up to the Premiership competition, still have much to prove under new coach Tom Coventry.

The former Chiefs/Hawke’s Bay assistant coach is now in full control of North Harbour (Harbour for short). Taking the reigns after former coach Steve Jackson showed the rest of New Zealand that Harbour were more than ‘Auckland’s little brother’.

He, along with co-captains James Parson and Matt Duffie promise that fans and commentators will see an improved Harbour rugby team.

“We are out to gain respect in 2017”.

Coventry was speaking during the teams Captains Run, at QBE Stadium, Albany. Last Word on Rugby viewed the squad hit-out, on an improved North Harbour Stadium surface. Shared by New Zealand Football, the grass looks better than ever. And so too, does the team.

Mitre 10 Cup Championship Final - Otago v North Harbour
Harbour Rugby players celebrate winning the Mitre 10 Championships Final match between Otago and North Harbour. (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

Confident still after their ‘get out of jail’ victory on October 28, 2016 – see above. And while that can serve as motivation, the fact is that the group from last year; plus new players and head coach, believe they are ‘not done yet’.

New Conviction from Harbour Rugby Head Coach

Securing the services of a talented head coach like Tom Coventry, will carry on the foundation laid by Steve Jackson. But with the transition, Coventry told LWOR that with Harbour being in the Premiership, it was exciting. “It’s great. This team has it’s own culture. Part of that was developed last year, with Jacko [Steve Jackson] and Daniel Halangahu.

“I’m more about fitting into what is already here, rather than try and change too much”.

And what Coventry will have found at Harbour rugby, is a team with conviction that they are worthy of being in the Premiership. Leaders such as Parsons (see main photo) and Duffie, along with new signing Jarrad Hoeata, all have that conviction. Their experience is underlined by raw talent, like Tevita Lee, Bryn Gatland and Mark Telea.

The side is an interesting ‘mix of talent’ and expect strong competition for places. Ben Volavola, the Fijian playmaker will apply pressure to incumbent Gatland, as will the veteran Chris Smylie onto halfback Bryn Hall. That should encourage the belief needed, to face the premier sides like Canterbury. And as Coventry says “to gain the rugby public’s respect”.

NZ Rugby a Different ‘Machine’ to English Rugby

“New Zealand is where I learned my trade. NZ Rugby is development machine, taking kids out school and almost straight into NPC. The coaching environment is a lot different, with a lot of open minded boys who are eager to learn. So for these guys, the NPC is a stepping stone into Super Rugby.”

His response to questions on how Coventry might use his experiences in the high pressure-cooker of English rugby were different. The two hemispheres may play the same game, but the new head coach knows the difference in rugby ethos.

READING, ENGLAND – APRIL 02: London Irish Director of Rugby Tom Coventry looks on ahead of the Aviva Premiership match between London Irish and Sale Sharks at Madejski Stadium on April 02, 2016 in Reading, England. (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

“Whereas over there [London Irish] you’ve got a lot of experience, mature players. The season is a long marathon; 40 odd games, so guys have to be managed. The expectations of fitness and skill are just totally different.”

Coventry is also very aware of the riggers of the National Provincial Rugby (NPC) championship. Having represented Waikato–and winning the title in 1992–he will enjoy the challenge, as much as the players might. The two-time Super Rugby winning assistant coach is keen to use Harbour rugby as ‘stepping stone’ in developing as a coach too [no doubt].

Tom Coventry Coaching Career:

  • 2012 – 2014: Chiefs Assistant Coach *two-time Super Rugby Champions
  • 2010 – 2011: Manu Samoa Forward Coach
  • 2007 – 2010: Hawke’s Bay Forward Coach/Co-Coach Air New Zealand Cup [NPC]
  • 2005 – 2010: NZ Schools Head Coach/Under 19 Selector/Under 20 Resource Coach
  • 2000 – 2003: Chiefs under 23’s/Development Team Head Coach
  • 1999 – 2002: Waikato Under 19s Head Coach/ Colts head coach/Waikato B head coach
  • 1990 – 1995: Hamilton Boys High 1st XV Head Coach

Tom Coventry Playing Career:

  • 1984 – 1987: Otago University/Otago NPC/NZ Universities captain
  • 1988 – 1995: Waikato NPC team/Hamilton Old Boys, club captain

Now with the challenge ahead with Harbour rugby, all the tools at hand of the organization will be harnessed towards a shared goal.

Coach and Players Looking Toward Same Goal

And Matt Duffie too spoke of the squads ambitions. “We were all pretty inexperienced, and probably didn’t deserve to be there [in the Championship final] but our team culture was awesome.

“Guys working their butts off for each other, and that’s the key for Harbour.”

Matt Duffie of the Blues scores a try during the round five Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Bulls at Eden Park on March 25, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Renee McKay/Getty Images)

The Blues winger brings his own skillset to the game. He will be a crucial link, as will every match-day, and wider squad member. And this critical element is common across all competitions. So Tom Coventry can include his coaching skillset, the complete the puzzle.

Harbour rugby are ‘not done yet’ and the evidence will be found over this upcoming season. Place all the pieces of the puzzle together successfully, and the supporters will certainly award the respect earned.

North Harbour rugby open the 2017 Mitre 10 Cup competition on Thursday August 17.

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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