As far as I know, that Blues have 32 players signed for next year, though I may be off by up to three (Matt Vaega, Sione Mafileo, Kara Pryor).
Assuming a squad of 38, the positions available are: loosehead, tighthead, lock (1x), loose forward (1x, probably number 8 cover), halfback, and one other.
Now that we've seen a few rounds of NPC, who are we thinking have put their hands up for these positions, and who would be available? Might be a bit hard to judge Auckland players at the moment though ...
I'd guess that North Harbour's Mike Tamoaieta will be the tighthead prop. Is Chris Eves available? If not then loosehead options include Mayhew and Smith from Harbour, Lindenmuth (too unproven?) from Auckland, and Waa from Northland.
Lock - is Fatialofa available? Otherwise I have no idea. The Blues are very dependent on Scrafton at set-piece. Hopefully Goodhue will develop a lot by the start of the season.
Number 8 needs to be a player who is ready for regular game time. Taramai is out apparently. Jordan Manehira? Hapakuki Moala-Liava'a? Matt Matich? Josh Kaifa?
Halfback is real struggle. Maybe Jack Stratton. Is Ruru available? Can we poach back Enari?
Pick another back or another loose forward for the wildcard? Another 2nd 5 or wing option would be handy too. Caleb Clarke is very young.
These are the players I think are signed for next year:
Blake Gibson (7)
Jerome Kaino (6, eight)
Akira Ioane (6, eight)
Jimmy Tupou (6)
Dalton Papali'i (6, 7)
Kara Pryor (7)
T. J. Faiane
@Crucial Yeah, it's weird, though it might be because Auckland look so bad. Trainor had a great 30 mins against the Reds in very humid conditions, and was in prime position for a hot NPC. Clarke is in that same shit team, and Nanai hasn't played yet.
I'm guessing that the back three will be Ioane, Duffie, and Collins. With regular appearances from Nanai. Trainor covers fullback and wing, and Vaega and Moala cover wing.
If Nanai completes his development and Trainor returns to form, then that could be quite a group.
Is Collins playing for Otago? Would love to see Nanai and Duffie develop their kicking games.
Luteru Laulala might be an option.
Eight and lock depth, and replacement hooker are my main concerns. Would love to have a quick thinking and passing halfback who could start half the games.
@Tim Michael Collins isn't playing for Otago due to a stress fracture in his leg.
Is Matt Vaega signed? I don't think he played one minute for the Blues in 2017. Which is a shame because he is a good player.
I'm not convinced at all by Trainor. One decent cameo against a garbage Reds side with nothing to play for - aside from that he's shown next to nothing to even look Super Rugby standard.
I'd prefer to have a quality midfield than outside backs - Blues havent had a quality midfield in forever. With SBW, Rieko, and youngsters Faiane (and hopefully Tua) there is some genuine midfield ability there. Knowing the Blues though they'll probably stubbornly stick Moala in the midfield and then wonder why their backline has no flow.
I'm interested in who Blues sign for their 3rd halfback - I'd be throwing everything at Enari but there are also other good young halfbacks around. Pleasing that Nock is looking good for Northland.
It was more to highlight that players move to/from all over NZ so provincial allegiances don't mean much with the new SR contracting system.
There was a story about Alaimalo's background during the Super season:
@Bovidae yeah I know that, and the new contracting model does seem for the most part to be evening things out with less players moving just for a Super contract...I mean despite our shit results of the past 2 seasons, we have our best Super rugby representation since, well probably ever!
Sounds like Matt Vaega will be with harbour again next year.
As far as his career goes, Vaega is committed to the club for the next year. And while being a humble individual, he is a leader in the team. Given responsibilities within the side, that compliments his rugby-brain and consistency.
Be interesting to see if Perofeta gets some time at fullback next season. Gives a second playmaker, and could allow an extra forward reserve to beef up the pack in the last 30 mins.
I know I'm a broken record, but we could really do with a slick passing halfback to give the backline that bit more space and time.
Gatland and Mo'unga are the form 1st 5s of the NPC so far. Perofeta and Black are going well too.
Hopefully those frontrow reserves can put some heat on at scrum time.
1 Pauliasi Manu
2 James Parsons
3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi
4 Patrick Tuipulotu
5 Scott Scrafton
6 Jerome Kaino
7 Blake Gibson
8 Akira Ioane
9 Augustine Pulu
10 Bryn Gatland/Otere Black
11 Melani Nanai
13 Rieko Ioane
14 Matt Duffie
15 Stephen Perofeta
16 Matt Moulds
17 Alex Hodgman
18 Mike Tamoaieta
19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti
20 Dalton Papali'i/Kara Pryor
21 Manihera/Liavaa-Moala/Jimmy Tupou
22 Sam Nock
23 George Moala/TJ Faiane/Matt Vaega
@Tim Matich is another that could be an option for the squad, has been in Blues dev system (and Auckland) heard he was very close to nabbing a super contract this year (not with Blues)
I'm a big fan of his, huge motor on him and accurate.