Spotlight on halfbacks

Spotlight on halfbacks

The 2016 Blues squad was announced one week ago, featuring a diverse field of exciting young talent and experienced senior players.

One position that has caught the attention of Super Rugby commentators is #9. The Blues have selected three players as potential starting halfbacks: Bryn Hall, Sam Nock and Billy Guyton. Each offers something different to the role and will be potential threats on the paddock this season.

Bryn Hall:
The 24-year-old was contracted in 2013 but faced an injury and illness-plagued first year (broken jaw and glandular fever). 2014 was a marked turnaround, with Hall replacing Piri Weepu as starting halfback, then back to another year of frustration 2015 when Hall broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot early on in the season.

Even through the undulating introductory years to Super Rugby, Hall has remained a key player to the side according to High Performance Manager Tony Hanks.

ìHis fitness and speed to the ball is standout and he showed good form in 2014 with his ability to distribute and keep the game flowing,î said Hanks.

Rugby commentators have also recognised Hall’s influential presence on the field. NZ Herald rugby columnist Gregor Paul said in 2014 that Hall ìpulls the strings while wearing No 9.î

ìHe has shown a natural awareness of where the space might be and a willingness and ability to probe through different means to exploit it,î Paul said. ìAnd, vital in any playmakers’ repertoire, he exudes calmness under pressure.î

Hall has experience leading his St Peter’s First XV during high school as well as the NZ Under-20s team in 2012 and the North Harbour ITM Cup team for the last two years. He was selected for the Maori All Blacks in 2013.

Sam Nock:
The 2014 St Kentigern College First XV standout and captain signed a three-year contract with the Blues for 2016 onwards.

While at St Kentigern College, Nock helped the team go unbeaten for three years as well as win the Auckland 1A competition, the national schools title and the Sanix World Rugby Youth Tournament in Japan in 2013.†

The Kerikeri-born Nock signed with his home side Northland for the 2015 season, committing to the side after hip surgery for a labral tear to his right side and six months rehabilitation. He elected to miss the NZ Under-20 trials and potential selection, knowing that surgery was required to be available for Northland and the Blues in 2016.†

Nock has been described as a ìkey young signingî by Hanks who helped guide the 19-year-old through the Blues’ Under-18 Development squad.†
ìThe Blues are working hard with our provincial unions and with schools on identifying and retaining our local talent,î said Hanks. ìSam most certainly fits into that category as both a very talented player and future leader.î†
Blues Head Coach Tana Umaga, who took up leadership at the Blues after Nock’s signing, has also recognised the young player’s ability.†
ìHis major strength is that he’s very good at his core roles and he’s a competitor,î said Umaga. ìHe has huge potential.î

Billy Guyton:
Billy Guyton brings a number of years experience at provincial level rugby to the Blues in 2016.†

Guyton was one Umaga’s signings for 2016, catching the coach’s eye with his combination of work ethic and different skill-set.†
ìBilly offers us something a little different than the other two,î said Umaga. ìHe’s robust and physical, while also being very good at his core roles. He’s got a huge work rate and loves to compete.î†
Guyton has impressed a number of coaches throughout New Zealand with his work rate. The 25-year-old began his professional career with North Otago in 2010 before transferring north to play for the Makos in 2013, earning a call-up to Super Rugby with the Hurricanes and then Crusaders.†
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder described Guyton as a player who’ll ìwork hard and is going to make the most of it (being in Super Rugby).”