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Bay’s best again

Siosiua Moala

AND the Poverty Bay Heartland Championship player of the year is, to no one’s surprise, except the man himself, Siosiua Moala

“I honestly thought Ethine (Reeves) would have won it this year,” High School Old Boys powerhouse No.8 Moala said after receiving the honour for the second season running at the Poverty Bay Rugby Football Union prizegiving last night.

“I was reasonably happy with my season but Ethine has that X-factor. It must have been a close decision.”

Fullback Reeves also had an outstanding season, which was acknowledged in him receiving the best back award.

Moala, 27, broke his wrist in the first game of the premier club competition and missed the entire first round, but came back to star for the HSOB as they won the Lee Brothers Shield for the third successive year.

“That was special,” said Moala, who carried his dynamic form into the Heartland campaign and was rewarded with selection for the Heartland Championship 15 who beat New Zealand Marist.

“It was good to be picked for the Heartland Championship 15 but I would have loved it to have been on the back of the Bay doing well.

“Individual awards are nice but you can’t win them without the help of your teammates.

“We had a slow start but when we started to come right in the middle of the season, and then beat Thames Valley in the quarterfinal, I really thought we could go all the way and win the Lochore Cup (for teams ranked fifth to eighth in the 12-team competition).

“It was really disappointing to go out in the semis to Mid Canterbury (eventual winners) but we have a young team who hopefully will learn from this season.”

Moala said he had received “a few offers” to join other unions but if he decided to leave Gisborne it would be one of the hardest decisions of his career.

“Mary (wife) and the kids love it here and so do I. I enjoy working for the union (as a development officer), coaching kids, but at 27 if I was going to move it would have to be now or never.

“I really love Gisborne, playing for HSOB and the Bay.”

Bay coach and former Tongan international coach Mana Otai, who also attended last night’s prizegiving held at the Gisborne Park Golf Club, said he looked back on the season as one to build on.

“There are still a few things around family commitments that have to be sorted but the union have confirmed they want me to stay, and I am happy to do that.

“We still have one child at school — a 14-year-old — two have finished university and one is just starting uni,” said Auckland-based Otai.

Key lessons from this season?

“We have to tighten up our defence but we also have to work on our attack. Yes, we scored some good tries but we also put ourselves under pressure by not capitalising on the chances we created.

“Players doing their core roles was a big focus and I was happy we made improvements in that area, but we need to be continually improving our basic skills . . . it sounds simple but if you don’t get the basics right, your chances of winning are greatly reduced.”

Otai and Moala, both Tongans, said Tonga’s fairytale run in the Rugby League World Cup, which ended with a controversial loss to England in last weekend’s semifinals, was a magnificent achievement for the tiny Pacific nation team.

“I’m not a flag-waving supporter but I watched the games at home and was so proud, not just with the way the team played but the support they got from the Tongan community,” said Moala. “It was something I will never forget.”

Otai said the atmosphere created by the Tongan supporters was something he had never seen before.

“It was like watching the fans at soccer matches overseas, waving flags and singing . . . fantastic. “

Four Poverty Bay players — Willis Tamatea (blindside flanker), Reeves, Mario Counsell (halfback) and Kelvin Smith (first five-eighth) — were last night awarded blazers for playing 30 or more games.

In a nice touch, the union recognised Patrick McHugh’s 30 years as the union doctor, physio Mike Evans (seven years) and manager Steve Smith (five years).

“They have all made valuable contributions, especially Patrick,” said chief executive Marty Davis.

“We couldn’t have a game of rugby with a doctor present and Patrick has been amazing. Last year he was appointed doctor to the Heartland Championship team and was reappointed this year.

Poverty Bay Heartland team awards

  • Player of the Year: Siosiua Moala.
  • Best and fairest: Sione Ngatu.
  • Peter Brown Trophy: Tip Jones.
  • Best forward: James Grogan.
  • Best back: Ethine Reeves.
  • Most promising: Andrew Tauatevalu and Fawn White.