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Whanganui rugby coach receives Heartland appointment

Appointment as a New Zealand Heartland coach is a further feather in the cap for Jason Hamlin who has enjoyed success both as a Whanganui rugby player and coach over the past 30 years.

He joins Waverley’s Guy Lennox as only the second local coach to receive a NZ Heartland coaching appointment, being named as assistant to South Canterbury’s incumbent head coach Nigel Walsh for the 2021 season.

Lennox, a Steelform Whanganui coach between 2003-2010, teams that won an NPC Div 3 and two Heartland titles, was the 2008 NZ Heartland assistant coach in 2008 and head coach the following two seasons.

Hamlin joined Jason Caskey as local coach in 2011 and apart from 2013, when Karl and Darrell Hoskin were coaches for a year, the pair have guided the Butcher Boys to Meads Cup titles in 2011-15-16-17, runners-up in 2012-19 and Lochore Cup champions in 2014.

In addition Jason Hamlin coached New Zealand Marist between 2014-16 and at local level was the Whanganui Māori coach in 2011-12, the Te Tini A Maui wahine coach in 2012 and the Māori Colts’ coach in 2013.

At grade level Hamlin coached the Whanganui under-11 reps in 2005-06, under-13s in 2007, under-14s in 2008-09 and under-16s in 2010 and Wanganui Counties seniors between 1992-97 and Marist seniors between 2011-17 at club level.

Hamlin started and finished his 100-match first-class rep playing career for Whanganui with Bruce Steele Memorial Cup victories – 16-12 against Wairarapa-Bush at Masterton in 1992 and he kicked a conversion in a 22-6 victory over Horowhenua-Kapiti at Cooks Gardens in 2001

The conversion took Hamlin to 116 points from his five seasons of NPC Div 3 rugby (1992-96) highlighted by beating Marlborough 22-17 in the 1996 championship final in Blenheim after being shocked 15-9 by Horowhenua at Spriggens Park in the 1993 final, and five years of Div 2 fixtures.

He played under six different selector-coaches – Bruce Polson, Ken George, Bruce Hodder, Neil Porter, Bruce Middleton and Bernie Kelly – during his 10 seasons with the Butcher Boys, starting 18 times at centre, 16 at fullback, 14 at first five, eight at second five and on the wing and ran on as a substitute in 31 matches.

He played in two Ranfurly Shield challenges – 7-51 v Manawatu in 1996 and 3-86 v Waikato 12 months later – and had eight games against overseas teams including wins over Victoria A (24-5) and Victoria (28-6) in Melbourne in 2001.

His other starts against overseas opposition were all in Whanganui – v England B (9-35 in 1992, Tonga (13-41) in 1994, Victoria (23-24) and East Japan (12-13) in 1995, Western Australia (20-all) and, Scotland (13-49) in 1996 and Fiji (19-28) in 1997,

Highlights of his premier club playing career were winning championships with firstly Wanganui Counties in 1990 (18-7 v Waiouru) and with Marist in 2000 (22-13 v Ratana).

He scored 557 premier club points, including 75 tries, highlighted by sharing the top points honour of 132 points with Tech COB’s Jerome Nahona in 1999.

Hamlin, a Whanganui station officer and trainer for Fire and Emergency NZ, is the third local person to receive a NZ Heartland Rugby appointment, joining former coach Guy Lennox and Chris Back who managed the national team for seven years (2009-15).

Back From America
Whanganui welcomes back former NZ Heartland Player of the Year Te Rangatira Waitokia who has been playing professional rugby in USA and has been cleared to play for the Butchers Boys this season.

Waitokia shot into prominence in 2016 when as a 20-year-old member of the Metro Colts side he scored 12 tries to help Steelform Whanganui win the Meads Cup, he was named in the NZ Heartland team and also named NZ Heartland Player of the Year at the NZRU’s national awards function.

He played in all 11 games for champions Whanganui in 2016 before being snapped up by the Manawatu Turbos the following season and playing 24 times for the green and whites since then.

Waitokia went to America this year as a fullback with the Atlanta RTL side which reached the final of the USA national championship, losing 31-17 to the Los Angeles Giltinis.

He has returned to New Zealand, spent his time in Covid-19 isolation, and is now a member of Whanganui’s Heartland squad, registered as an overseas professional player/Player of Origin.

Depending on the Government’s lockdown level announcement this week it is very likely that Whanganui will play its first 2021 championship match against Poverty Bay at Cooks Gardens on Saturday week, September 18.

Rural Work Clash
The late start to the 2021 Bunnings Warehouse Heartland championship could pose problems for some unions, including Whanganui, because of a likely clash with work duties for rural squad members.

Traditionally the Heartland competitions end at Labour weekend but the Covid-19 restrictions this year could see the playing season extend out an extra month.

The Steelform Whanganui squad includes a number of players from Northern Whanganui and Southern Taranaki who are involved in farm work.

The following is a breakdown of the local Heartland squad including clubs, positions, number of first class matches played and occupations –

Backs –
Josaia Bogileka (Marist – Midfield – 6 games) – Truck driver.
Craig Clare (Border – Utility – 31) – Banker.
Cameron Davies (Kaierau – Halfback – 6) – Logger.
Lindsay Horrocks (Border – Halfback – 73) – Farmer.
Kameli Kuruyabaki (Manawatu/Player of Origin – Mid Field – 17) – Builder.
Peceli Malanicagi (Otago/Player of Origin – Winger – 0) – Labourer.
Ezra Malo (Kaierau – Utility – 0) –Teacher Aid.
Joeli Rauca (Ngamatapouri – Winger – 0) – Labourer.
Ethan Robinson (Kaierau – Mid Field – 18) – Roofer.
Tyler Rogers-Holden (Taihape – Utility – 20) – Shepherd.
Timoci Seruwalu (Ngamatapouri – Three quarter – 13) – Beekeeper.
Alekesio Vakarorogo (Border – Winger – 4) – Labourer.
Te Rangatira Waitokia (USA/ Player of Origin – Utility – 11) – Student/ Pro player.
Dane Whale (Taihape – Utility – 49) – Stock agent.

Forwards –
Matthew Brown (Taihape – Lock – 1) – Farmer.
Gordon Coogan (Taihape – Prop – 0) – Builder.
Dylan Gallien (Taihape – Hooker – 15) – Shepherd.
Gabriel Hakaraia (Ruapehu – Prop – 28) – Builder.
Campbell Hart (Ruapehu – Loose – 37) – Teacher.
Hadlee Hay-Horton (Taihape – Prop – 4) – Shepherd.
Peter Travis Hay-Horton (Taihape – Lock – 0) – NZR Linesman
Jamie Hughes (Ruapehu – Loose – 42) – Fencer
Kieran Hussey (Border – Loose – 3) – Aluminum worker.
Josh Lane (Kaierau – Lock – 15) – Builder
Cade Robinson (Kaierau – Lock – 6) – Machine operator.
Josefa Rokotakaia (Kaierau – Lock – 0) – Teacher aid.
Viki Tofa (Marist – Prop – 45) – Road constructor
Roman Tutauha (Ruapehu – Front Row – 72) – Railway supervisor.
Jack van Bussell (Kaierau – Hooker – 0) – Banker.
Semi Vodosese (Border – No 8 – 4) – Labourer.
Keightley Watson (Metro Colts – Prop – 0) – Property maintenance.
Ben Whale (Taihape – Loose – 0) – Teacher/Farmer.

By: John B Phillips

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