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Counties and Umaga reveal 2013 ITM Cup squad

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steelers.co.nz and James Mortimer     16 Jul 2013     Getty Images

With the welcome return of ITM Cup afternoon rugby at ECOLight Stadium, CMRFU will host another afternoon fixture the week before the Counties Power Club Finals when the World Champion Black Ferns play England in their third and final test on Saturday 20 July at 2.35pm. The Black Ferns squad features three Counties Manukau players Aroha Savage, Renee Wickliffe and Rawinia Everitt.

The Steelers ITM Cup campaign kicks off at home with a pre-season hit out against Bay of Plenty on Thursday 1 August at 6.00pm and Umaga and his team have two main focuses for the 2013 season which are to stay in the ITM Cup Premiership and develop a strong relationship with their community.

Coach Tana Umaga said "We have worked hard to get back in the Premiership and we want to make sure we are able to stay there by being highly competitive and earning respect.

"We know it is not going to be easy, but believe by consolidating and developing a good group of well rounded young men it is a good start. We want players who are proud of where they come from and will represent the Counties Manukau region well."

"It is important for us to create pathways for our players and this starts by developing our own players. We actually don't have a lot of choice but to develop our talent pool, which means we have to work harder in all areas of our organisation."

One of the exciting opportunities that Umaga believes this presents is the ability to be innovative and think outside of the square.

"If we can work within our own parameters but challenge the boundaries in all parts of our organisation we will make what we have strong, attractive and earn respect," said Umaga."

The Steelers management have been happy with the standard of rugby in this years Counties Power Club Rugby competition. "It is the clubs that keep rugby going in Counties Manukau. It is the volunteers, the coaches, the players and supporters that put so much work in behind the scenes to keep it all ticking and provide us a platform to select from," said the former All Black captain.

Umaga has tried to select players that are going to give back to the community and their clubs which he acknowledges are the lifeline for rugby. While Umaga has recruited certain positions from outside of the area, he and his team are working on developing depth in those areas.

The development programme is proving to be effective if the impressive form of the 30 club players who played for the Counties Manukau Cavaliers against the Chiefs and the Bay of Plenty Cavaliers during the international window was anything to go by.

Umaga stated "The hit against the Chiefs and Cavaliers was beneficial for us and our boys and they showed good attitude and intensity. The weather was challenging but it was great to give players a chance to experience what it is like at the next level."

The introduction of players recruited from outside the region into local clubs has really added some competition within the clubs which has made the Counties Power Club rugby competition one of the closest in many years. Apart from clear front runners Ardmore Marist, there are still a lot of teams challenging for the semi-finals spots which means no team can be taken lightly as they via for spots in the Counties Power Club Finals on Saturday 27 July.

For those people wanting to support Tana Umaga, Steve Jackson, CMRFU and the Steelers they can do so by purchasing a Season Memberships which are on sale now from only $50 for a South Auckland Motors Embankment membership or $100 for a Grandstand membership.

Pak n Save Pukekohe is again supporting the initiative that all kids 13 and under will be free at all Steelers home games in 2013 when supervised by an adult.

All season memberships include the Counties Power Club finals, the Black Ferns test against England on Saturday July 20 at 2.35pm at ECOLight Stadium and all the Steelers 2013 home games. To purchase your membership visit www.steelers.co.nz or phone 09 2370033.

For anyone wishing to enquire about ITM Cup match day hospitality, ground signage and sponsorship opportunities call Phil Kingsley Jones on 09 2370033.

Steelers merchandise is now available from CMRFU offices during office hours. Replica jersey's are $120.00 each.

Counties Manukau Steelers Squad 2013
Contracted Players

Sam Aiono (Bombay) Prop
Bundee Aki (Patumahoe) Midfield Back
Ki Anufe (Bombay) First Five-Eighth
Adam Cathcart (Onewhero) Loose Forward
Jarrod Firth (Ardmore Marist) Prop
Kane Hancy (Patumahoe) Halfback
Frank Halai (Pukekohe) Wing
Baden Kerr (Karaka) First Five-Eighth
Fritz Lee (Ardmore Marist) No 8
Rey Lee-Lo (Karaka) Midfield Back
Tyrone Lefau (Ardmore Marist) Wing
Simon Lemalu (Waiuku) Prop
Sikeli Nabou (Ardmore Marist) Lock
Tim Nanai-Williams (Manurewa) Outside Back
August Pulu (Karaka) First Five-Eighth
Tony Pulu (Bombay) Outside Back
Ronald Raaymakers (Waiuku) Lock
Mahonri Schwalger (Chiefs) Hooker
Mark Selwyn (Manurewa) Loose Forward
Sherwin Stowers (Ardmore Marist) Outside Back
Suliasi Taufalele (Ardmore Marist) Hooker
Matt Talaese (Manurewa) Prop
Ahsee Tuala (Manurewa) Midfield Back
Jimmy Tupou (Patumahoe) Lock/Loose Forward
Ryan Wilson (Patumahoe) Lock
Maama Vaipulu (Pukekohe) Loose Forward