RUGBY - MURRAY Hewson will make his 50th appearance for Poverty Bay tomorrow when the Bay host Wairarapa Bush, the team they played on his rep debut.
Hewson made his debut — at lock alongside Willie Hallgarth — in a 28-15 win against the Bush at Rugby Park on August 11, 2007.
Fast forward five years and Hewson, a 29-year-old father of three young children, will run out at the Park for a memorable milestone.
“I have always wanted to play for Poverty Bay,” he said.
“The representative games are quicker than club rugby, while the technical side of the game and scrums and mauls are much harder.
“That’s the challenge but I feel I have improved over the years and always regard it as an honour to wear the jersey.
“Tomorrow is not about me; it’s about picking up another win. The Bush have had a good start to their season but the boys are up for it. We really want to back up from last weekend.”
Paul Feeney was the Bay coach who first picked Hewson, while current Bay boss Grainger Heikell was assistant coach.
“From a playing point of view, I’ve learned something from every coach I have been involved with and it’s been enjoyable to play alongside young players who go on to make it at a higher level.
“But I’d have to say the biggest influence on my rugby career has been my partner Pera. She has always supported me. With three young children, it’s hard on her when I’ve got club training and then rep training, as well as games away every other weekend during the rep season.
“If it wasn’t for Pera’s support I wouldn’t be able to spend so much time on rugby.”
Heikell said Hewson — who missed a full Heartland Championship season after he broke his collarbone in a Ranfurly Shield challenge against Auckland here in 2008 — has developed into a key player.
“He’s grown massively as a player and a person,” Heikell said.
“It’s a pity he wasn’t a few inches taller and few kilograms heavier . . . he could have gone on to higher honours.
“He works hard on and off the field and is always well prepared. His scrummaging has improved out of sight from when he started.
“Muzza’s one the most popular players in the squad.”
Russell Burns and Scott Leighton were also in the Bay side who beat the then-defending Meads Cup champions 28-15 in 2007.
Sione Ngatu, who missed that clash, will play his 98th game for the Bay tomorrow, with Heikell making only one change in personnel and one positional change to the side who beat Horowhenua Kapiti.
Sione Tupa was unable to train because of a chest infection so he drops to the bench with Pamona Samupo wearing the No.11 jersey for his first Heartland game.
Namibian international David Philander started last weekend at fullback but swaps positions with right-winger Kelvin Smith.
“David is still getting over the travel, settling into a new environment and a bit of flu,” Heikell said.
Wairarapa Bush thumped the Bay 44-17 in a pre-season game at Masterton and opened their Heartland campaign with a 32-21 win against South Canterbury last week.
“The Bush gave us a hiding down there and have had a good pre-season build-up but we’re confident we’ve made significant improvements,” Heikell said.
“We’ve also fashioned a good record at home which we want to maintain. If you win your home games it takes some of the pressure off when you travel, but no matter where you play you have to do the basics right.”
Wairarapa Bush fullback Glen Waller kicked six penalties and two conversions for 22 of his side’s 32 points, while loosies Johan van Vliet and James Goodger made sure their backs received a good supply of front-foot ball. Vliet capped a man-of-the-match display with a try.
POVERTY BAY: Simon Versteeg, Henry Yortt, Jone Lesi, Murray Hewson, Josese Bolabasaga, Sione Ngatu, Tevita Maka, Andrew Gardner, Richard Brown, Scott Leighton (c), Pamona Samupo, Moss Doran, Paul Tikomainaivalu, David Philander, Kelvin Smith.
Reserves: Russell Burns, Campbell Chrisp, Jason Tuapawa, Josh Hart, Brad Turei, Nick Wilson and Sione Tupa.