Friday, 4 August 2017
Brown ruled out as Port Taranaki Bulls take on BOP
Well-performed Chiefs and Taranaki loose forward Mitchell Brown has been ruled out of the Port Taranaki Bulls’ Mitre 10 Cup season because of a serious knee injury.
The mobile and tough Brown proved a versatile and indispensable member of the Chiefs during the Super Rugby season. Having had stints at blindside flanker and No 8 during the competition, he was a first choice at lock for the playoffs, keeping former All Black Dominic Bird on the bench.
However, he has suffered a cartilage tear in his left knee, which requires immediate surgery, and is expected to be out of rugby for at least three months.
Port Taranaki Bulls coach Colin Cooper said Brown’s loss was a blow to the team following the season-ending injuries to loose forwards Mitchell Crosswell, Berny Hall and Blade Thomson, and the loss of Iopu Iopu-Aso to Japan.
"Mitch is an outstanding player and would have been a key member of the Port Taranaki Bulls this season. We are disappointed for him that he hasn’t been able to build on his good form of the Super Rugby season by playing the Mitre 10 Cup, but we wish him well in his recovery,” Cooper said.
Offsetting Brown’s loss is the recruitment of Waikato lock-loose forward Brad Tucker, who made his debut for the Mooloos last season. The 24-year-old moved from Canterbury to Waikato and was initially in the Waikato development team before being called into the first team as an injury replacement.
Cooper said Tucker, who has been signed on for the season, would provide loose forward and lock cover for Brown.
“Brad’s a promising player who has great attributes of being mobile and hard-working. We think he will be a great fit in the loose forward and locking mix.”
Tucker will get his first opportunity in amber and black tomorrow, when the Port Taranaki Bulls take on Bay of Plenty at Te Awamutu in the first of the team’s two pre-season matches. He will come off the bench in a game of one 40-minute half and two 20-minute quarters.
Cooper said the loss of the established loose forwards had been a concern but it gave a host of other players a chance to impress, including well-performed club players Dylan Juffermans, Adrian Wyrill and Pita-Gus Sowakula, who have been named to start in the back row.
Through the season-ending injuries to a number of players and others on annual leave requirements following the Super Rugby season, Cooper and assistant coach Willie Rickards have called on a group of club and Taranaki Rugby Academy players for tomorrow’s match.
“This game gives a lot of players the chance to perform and put their hand up for further selection, particularly if there are more injuries during the season,” Cooper said. “It gives players a chance to gain experience in a step up from club rugby.”
Included in that group is the leading points scorer in the Taranaki premier club competition, Tukapa fullback Jayson Potroz, brothers Liam and Cole Blyde, who are both members of the Taranaki Rugby Academy, New Plymouth Old Boys utility Daniel Waite, and promising first five-eighth Matt McKenzie, who is in his second year with the academy.
Chiefs development player Donald Maaka, a former loose forward, is on the bench as hooker cover, while loose forward Tom Florence, who is studying in Waikato and was a member of the national schools side in 2015, gets his first experience of senior Taranaki representative rugby.
Born-and-bred Taranaki local Logan Crowley, who attended Lincoln University and was called into the Canterbury Mitre 10 Cup team last year before signing a two-year deal with Taranaki, will start at halfback, while former Taranaki, and New Zealand and England sevens representative Warwick Lahmert, who is now Taranaki Rugby’s sevens academy manager, provides experience off the bench.
Leighton Price will captain the team from lock.
Cooper said the squad had been training three times a week in preparation for tomorrow’s game, which would give the coaches a chance to try some new innovations.
“It’s an exciting group. They’ve earned the right to put on a Taranaki jersey through their performances in club rugby, so we’re looking forward to seeing how the individuals combine as a team,” he said.
The game at Te Awamutu Rugby and Sports Club kicks off at 1pm.
Port Taranaki Bulls: Jared Proffit, Sione Lea, Asaeli Sorovaki, Micaiah Torrance-Read, Leighton Price (captain), Dylan Juffermans, Adrian Wyrill, Pita-Gus Sowakula, Logan Crowley, Beaudein Waaka, Latu Vaeno, Daniel Waite, Avon Lewis, Liam Blyde, Jayson Potroz. Reserves: Alex Mitchell, Donald Maaka, Mike Kainga, Finn Hoeata, Brad Tucker, Tom Florence, Jack White, Cole Blyde, Warwick Lahmert, Stephen Perofeta, Declan O’Donnell, Matt McKenzie.