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Caleb Ralph returns to East Coast for Heartland tilt

COAST’S CALEB COUP

POVERTY Bay vice-captain Kahu Tamatea and Pomare Samupo are the latest players to join the Ngati Porou East Coast revival.

The signing of the 31-year-old Tamatea is another coup for Coast coach Ngarimu Simpkins, who has already recruited former All Black Caleb Ralph.

“With Clayton Kiwara making the North Harbour squad, Kahu is a key signing, there’s no doubt about it, but Pomare could be the dark horse in our side this season,” said Simpkins, who guided the team to the Meads Cup final in his first season last year.

“He’s already had Heartland Championship experience with the Bay and he’s a player Rua (Tipoki, Coast assistant coach) and I rate highly.

“The thing that is most pleasing is that both players, as well as the others we’ve signed, are coming for the right reasons.

“Kahu and Pomare have Coast connections and want to give something back to the area, and both are buying into the culture of playing for the jersey and the whanau.”

Tamatea — now playing for Hutt Old Boys Marist in Wellington — wore the Sky Blue jersey in 2003 when Joe McClutchie was in charge.

“Pomare is playing for Waiapu and he had an outstanding game at the weekend,” Simpkins said.

“He has relatives in Waiapu and told me he really wanted to play for his nana.

“But one thing that Rua and I will be making clear to all the players this season is reputations count for nothing.

“We all start from scratch this season and team selection will be based on the amount of work players put into training, preparations and performances on the paddock.

“It’s exciting having a backline that includes players like Rua, Caleb, TK Moeke, Sikili Vorenasu, Tom Teaeki, Pomare and Kahu.

“The job now is to come up with a pack who can get the ball these guys need.”

Bay coach Grainger Heikell said he would have loved to have Tamatea in his squad.

“There are no hard feelings,” he said.

“Kahu has given the union tremendous service over the years and this is another opportunity for him. We wish him all the best.

“We had a contract with Kahu that we were not in a position to renew this year. The fact that he was looking at going overseas meant Trevor (Crosby, Bay assistant coach) and I were putting other options into place.

“By the time we knew Kahu wasn’t going overseas, we had already contacted (Namibian world cup back) David Philander, who is hoping to eventually settle here.”

Tamatea, who has scored 281 points for the Bay, was initially planning to play in Spain or Germany.

“Spain was my first choice and at one stage it looked like I would get a good deal,” Kahu Tamatea said.

“Then the more I became interested, it seemed the more the club cooled on the idea.

“That, plus my son Lynkin turning five in September, made up my mind not to go overseas.

“I spoke to Grainger and he was up-front with me regarding the financial aspect of coming in as a loan player again this year.

“I bumped into Ngarimu Simpkins and Rua Tipoki over the summer and they mentioned the possibility of me playing for the Coast but back then I was keen on going to Europe.”

In a match against the Coast in 2000, Tamatea and his father Ron became the first — and to date only — father-son combination to play together in an NPC game.

“As well as speaking to Grainger regarding playing for the Coast, I also spoke to my dad and my brother Willis,” Kahu said.

“I have tremendous repsect for all of them and wanted to run it (playing for the Coast) past Dad and Willis.

“Both would have preferred me to play for the Bay but both said they would respect whatever decision I made.”

“I think it will be good for my career — a change of scenery, a new challenge.

Willis, a Wairoa policeman, who is almost certain to be included in the Bay squad, said blood was thicker than water.

“But if we are on opposite sides this season, I won’t see my brother; all I’ll see is an opposition player,” Willis said.

“I’m sure Kahu will feel the same.”

 

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