Competition for spots. There is competitive pressure to perform with our squad depth. 5 first grade props for 4 places; 6 first grade backrowers/ locks for 3 starting and a bench spot. Pompey and Perham pushing for inclusion. Then there’s the external pressure to perform - contracts. It’s not just getting in the team, it’s earning your future value for guys like Kodi, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Ah Mau, Harris, etc.
Bunty is a dark horse. Yes, he wasn’t wanted but he’s here with a point to prove. Still only 24 and with 60+ games under his belt he’s been playing first grade for 5 years. After a season out injured, we all forget what he’s capable of. He’s a fan favourite for his explosive impact. In any team your as strong as your weakest link. In a stacked pack, the 5th ranked prop is going to drive the performance of the others and will get plenty of opportunities to show what he’s got.
Evans and Murchie out with ‘niggles’... do we have the luxury of a rest and rotation policy? At the very least we don’t have to rush the walking wounded back early. This could be a significant difference to other years where a battered squad limped to the end of the season.
The bubble - no time difference, travel issues, jet lag, Aussie vs NZ weather, etc. Stability for the squad. We saw last year the positive impact of living and training together in a Aussie bubble. Total focus on the game.
Phil Gould - He had the mana and the contacts within the game. The ref issues will get addressed if when they come up this year.
All the makings of a good year, but in the bigger picture we’re building towards a sustained period of success over the longer term.