Year in, year out the Wellington club rugby competition produces new talent for fans and supporters to get enthused about. From Joe Karam in the early 1970s to TJ Perenara a few years ago to the current crop of recent school leavers, people can look back and say ‘I was there’ when they first played senior rugby.
In 2015 Wellington produced more New Zealand Secondary representatives than any other region with seven. Additionally Scots College and St. Patrick's College, Wellington finished in the Top Eight schools in New Zealand.
Much of that talent will be witnessed on the club fields of the capital this year. Here are some rookie names to keep an eye on.
- Kemara Hauiti-Parapara/Wellington College/Halfback/Tawa
- Alex Fidow/Scots College/Prop/Ories
- Losi Filipo/St. Pats Silverstream/ Utility Back/Petone
- Peter Umaga-Jensen/Scots College/Utility Back/Wainuiomata
- Ben Power/HIBS/Hooker/Hutt Old Boys Marist
- Marino Mikaele-Tuu/Hastings BHS/Loose Forward/OBU
- Isaia Walker-Leawere/Gisborne BHS/Loose Forward/Poneke
- Asafo Aumua/St. Pats Silverstream/Hooker/Avalon
These eight players all represented the New Zealand Schools' last year. The only two from outside of Wellington are Marino Mikaele-Tuu and Isaia Walker-Leawere.
Mikaele-Tuu was selected for the New Zealand Schools as a No.8. He has been through IRANZ and was a regular member of the Hastings Boys' First XV for three years. Hastings made the Condor Sevens final in 2015 and won more Super 8 games combined in the last two years than what they had done for the previous decade. Mikaele-Tuu's dominant running game and abrasive tackling was a key feature in this renewed success. Mikaele-Tuu will head to OBU and possibly play blindside alongside the impressive and imposing Teariki Ben-Nicholas.
Walker-Leawere is from Gisborne and is the son of a former Fijian international. He has the height to play lock, but is equally effective as a loose forward. Walker-Leawere's enthusiasm and raw strength will greatly benefit Poneke.
Alex Fidow wowed audiences in College rugby by scoring 49 tries in 60 games for Scots. The mammoth prop has rare speed and ball skills, attributes that won him the Bronze Boot Award as the best player in the NZ Schools v Australian Schools test. His scrummaging will come under scrutiny in senior footy, but his mobility will add another dimension to an already powerful Ories pack.
On the subject of Power, Ben heads to Hutt Old Boys Marist where he will challenge captain and Lions hooker James O'Reilly for a starting position. Ben is the son of Eagles stalwart Doug Power and made the NZ Schools last year only to be injured before the Australian tour. Power has the speed and skill to play in the loose forwards and was ranked among the top five U18 discus and shot put throwers in New Zealand.
Asafo Aumua is another hooker to watch closely, especially given he played second-five, prop and No.8 at school. He is a brutal defender and thrived in sevens. He was the top try scorer at the Wellington Club Sevens with 11.
Halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara decided to return to Wellington College for a Year 14. The decision paid off as he was selected for the New Zealand Schools. Hauiti-Parapara likes to have a snipe around the rucks and is a useful goal-kicker.
Peter Umaga-Jensen can kick goals. He scored 155 points for Scots last season and ended his First XV career with 32 tries in 48 games. Peter has struggled with injures in the off-season, but can play every position in the backline and alongside TJ Va'a and Josh Robertson-Weepu will add much vibrance to the Wainuiomata backline.
Losi Filipo is headed to Petone. The winger can also cover midfield and is likely to alongside former schoolmate Lester Maulolo. Filipo spent four years in the St. Pats Silverstream First XV. He was pursed aggressively by league, but has chosen to say with Union.
Scots locks and Hurricanes U18 reps, Jarimar Schuster and Henry Mexted are taking different paths. Schuster will join Wainuiomata while Mexted aligned with MSP will take a year off to concentrate on his law studies.
Folu Finau Vea was the Captain of the Tawa First XV and a Wellington U18 rep last year. A member of the Wellington academy he will push the premiers at Tawa with his busy and bustling play.
Tawa have also gained the services of Paul Bickle (First-Five) and Ben Aumua-Pestea (prop). Both were essential cogs in Town's Premier One success last year, though the former is returning from a serious leg injury.
Foliga Vaalepu-Austin from Bishop Viard College was arguably the best player in Premier Two last year. He is headed to MSP. Reagan Sword is a first five-eighth from Hato Paora College also joining MSP. He has impressed last year at the New Zealand Marist Sevens tournament and could get an opporunity.
Last year's Wairarapa College captain and loose forward Bruce Kauika-Petersen, who led his school to a 27-24 win over Wellington College last year, and Wellington U18 player and former St Bernard's College player Willie Fine both join Petone.