TRIO: Michael Bureta puts the polish on a flash new-look Nelson Bay outfit, with Mike Hotene and Chad Northcott in the mix. Picture: Ryan Osland
NELSON Bay have a new look.
Once a rough and tumble outfit which lived and died on the efforts of their forwards, the Gropers are now more glitz than grunt.
It started with the emergence of five-eighth Chad Northcott three years ago.
Fellow Kiwi Mike Hotene added another element at outside centre before Michael Bureta completed the make over.
An Auckland under-20s representative, Bureta has given the Bay another weapon in attack, especially on the counter, and is also an accomplished goalkicker.
‘‘He is a very good broken-field runner,’’ coach Darren Hancock said.
‘‘He has that turn of speed. You can’t coach it. He has it and has helped set up five or six tries for us on the counter-attack.’’
Bureta did most of his attacking from set play against Beaches on either shoulder of outside centre Hotene.
‘‘Chad and Kiwi [Hotene] run the backs,’’ Hancock said. ‘‘They can do what they like to a certain degree.
‘‘With Mike we want to get him out wide in space, that is where he is at his best.’’
Bureta, 22, grew up in Papatoetoe in the mean streets of south Auckland.
He was in the Auckland Blues under-18s development squad and under 20s before joining first division club Otahuhu for whom he also played sevens.
‘‘It is a different style of rugby over here,’’ Bureta said.
‘‘It is not as physical here and probably a level under as well. First grade back home, everyone wants to make the Blues team.
‘‘I came here for a different lifestyle and to experience rugby in a different country.
‘‘I’m enjoying it.’’
The new backline combination has helped the Gropers score 157 points in five games, the third best attack in the competition, and almost half the points they tallied last season.
Against that is the fact they have conceded 134 points, better only than cellar dwellers Lake Macquarie (191 points) and University (195).
And with a tough run looming against Maitland, Merewether, Hamilton and Wanderers, Hancock said defence was the area they must improve.
‘‘We have to tighten our defence up,’’ he said.
‘‘We let in a couple of soft tries out wide in the [41-19 loss] against Beaches.
‘‘If we do that against Wanderers and the like, they will kill us.’’
Former Canterbury second-rower and Nelson Bay rugby league coach Rob Relf has been assisting Hancock with strength and conditioning and is now also helping with their defence.
‘‘We have introduced a new pattern,’’ Hancock said.
‘‘We are sliding on the inside and coming up on the outside.
‘‘It is a bit new to them. This will be our third week at it and will probably take another six weeks before we are right. Communication is the key.’’