What a season, what a team, and what a leader. Things didn’t look good earlier on in the season, with the loss to Southland, but as Tom Parsons said that was the kick in the arse they needed.
After that this team just grew, and to be honest have become one of the best in the country. Mark Ozich, and Josh Symes quickly realised that with the campaign being a long one, they needed depth in critical positions, and this is exactly what they built up. They players they bought in all contributed bloody well, and made competition within the squad for starting spots very competitive.
Seriously how many teams can afford to have players like Gareth Evans, Isia Walker Leaware, Calab Makene, on there bench, and players like Danny Toala, and Bryn Evans left out all together.
Of course there were flat patches such as the hiding from North Harbour, but that was always going to happen given the length and schedule of the season. Mark Ozich is a very clever coach, and clearly has the ability to turn any team he coaches into a formidable side. Hastings Boys High, and now Hawkes Bay are proof of that. This team has been rewarded for their efforts, with the Ranfurly Shield locked away, and now the Championship as well.
Individual players have been rewarded with New Zealand Maori and Moana Pasifika selection, and to be honest more should follow with Super Rugby selection, Tom Parsons, and Joe Apikitoa are two examples of this.
With victories over Counties Manakau, Otago, Manawatu, Wellington, Canterbury, Taranaki twice, Northland twice, this has been a season to remember. No doubt the squad will be bolstered even further next year, and course some may move on, and in the professional era that’s the way it is, but all you can say is well done Hawkes Bay, your a bloody good side and have earnt all the rewards that have come your way.
Oh and Ash when you do retire, and hopefully that won’t be any time soon, write a book. I’d guarantee it would be a best seller in Hawkes Bay.