But Bay coach Mutu Ngarimu is still keeping his cards close to his chest in regard to loan players.
“We have some exciting loan players in the pipeline but until they’ve completed all the necessary formalities I won’t be releasing their names,” said Ngarimu.
“If we get the players we’re after we’ll be competitive this season.
That is good news for Bay supporters after the side’s 71-0 thumping by Wairarapa Bush in Masterton at the weekend.
“Sometimes you learn more from a loss, especially a heavy one like that,” said Hewson a 31-year-old policeman who skippered the Bay to victory over Ngati Porou East Coast in June but missed Saturday’s defeat.
“You learn about yourself as an individual, your teammates and as a team — whether you have the character to bounce back.
“I’ve captained the team on occasions in the past but this is the first time I’ve been the official captain for the Heartland season.
“Now I have to make sure I earn my place in the starting line-up. Just because I’m captain doesn’t mean I have the right to wear the jersey every week.
“I’ve always regarded it as an honour and a privilege to play for Poverty Bay. We’re only one year away from celebrating our 125th anniversary and there have been some great players who have worn this jersey during the previous 123.’’
Ngarimu said Hewson, who takes over from Sione Ngatu, had earned the right to lead the side.
“Muzza’s been playing for the Bay for eight seasons now and he bleeds red,” Ngarimu said. “He’s not only a good lock, he’s a player who leads by example and gives you 100 percent commitment week in, week out.
“I want Sione to concentrate more on his core role — six or eight — but he will play a key role in the leadership team.”
Second five-eighth TK Moeke, who co-captained Ngati Porou East Coast last season, will also be key.
Moeke missed the Wairarapa Bush game but, along with Hewson and openside flanker Donny Mill, will be available for this Saturday’s final pre-Heartland Championship hit-out against Hawke’s Bay development in Wairoa.
HSOB hooker and former Bay rake Russell Burns, another who did not travel to Masterton, is back in the squad after an absence of several years. He will push Geoff Pari for the No. 2 jersey.
“Russell had a great season for HSOB and deserves to be back,” Ngarimu said.
“What we (Ngarimu and assistant coach Rico Gear) are trying to do is have competition for every position so there is no complacency.
“We want guys coming to training pushing for a place in the starting line-up, not just to make up the numbers.
“Some guys will get more game time than others but we want them all to feel they’re important to the squad,
“We have some guys pencilled in but there are still some spots up for grabs and the players have between now and the first Heartland game against the Coast in two weeks to make it impossible for me and Rico to leave them out.”
Heartland newcomers in the 28-man squad are Lani Latu, Lance Dickson, Jared Phelps, Ken Houkamau, Corban Barbara, Travis Gooch, Rongomai Smith, Sean Taylor, Scott McKinley, Luke Bates and Mike Wilson.