Canterbury have a decent team with a fair bit of experience in the side and a bit still to come back, they should have a good tourney..
Nice interview with Corey Lawrie
Canterbury Bulls veteran Corey Lawrie is back for another season in the red and black jersey. He spoke to BRENDON EGAN about his rugby league journey.
Corey Lawrie is the last of a dying breed.
In 2007, he swapped his day job as a scaffolder for the bright lights of the National Rugby League competition after signing a one-year deal with the New Zealand Warriors.
Lawrie's pathway to the NRL was an unconventional one.
He made his NRL debut at the age of 27 - securing a contract after impressing for the New Zealand Residents team and the Bulls in domestic rugby league.
For someone, who never played in any national age-group sides and whose only representative team was the Canterbury under-nines, it was a remarkable tale.
Lawrie, who is now 34, thinks it is becoming harder for late bloomers to break into the NRL.
It was difficult for players in their mid 20s, who were slow starters or ''went off the walls'', when they were younger, but it could be done.
''I think it's tough. If you really want to have a dig you really need to put yourself in the shop window of the Queensland Cup or the New South Wales Cup,'' Lawrie said.
For talented young New Zealand players it had never been easier to attract attention with the under-20 national youth competition and the Junior Kiwis.
Lawrie will be a key man for the Bulls when they begin their national zonal competition in New Plymouth today against last year's strugglers, the Central Vipers.
He is a vastly experienced second rower/loose forward, having debuted for Canterbury in 2002 and racking up ''about 85 games''.
Lawrie played four games for the Warriors during his one-year NRL stint. He had mixed emotions of his time at the club.
''I see it as a failure. I don't think I succeeded. I don't think I took the opportunity when I had the chance.
''You look back now and people say 'It must've been awesome', but for me, I look back and say if I was good enough, I'd get re-signed.''
Playing alongside rugby league legends Steve Price and Ruben Wiki was a special memory.
He became close friends with team-mates, Simon Mannering and Australians Grant Rovelli and Todd Byrne - people he still keeps in contact with.
''That's what I get the most out of, when I look back playing-wise. I guess that's more fulfilling.
''I'm maybe not the best player, but they still go out of their way to keep in contact.
One of the biggest lessons he learned from his time at the Warriors was to play to his strengths and not be afraid of making mistakes on the field. Lawrie was also hampered by an Osteitis pubis injury, which causes inflammation of the hips from overtraining.
''I didn't play my natural game. In the second year, if they gave me one more year, it would have been totally different. You're used to what you're doing and you feel like you belong.''
Lawrie made his first appearance for the Warriors early in the season in round five against the North Queensland Cowboys at Mt Smart Stadium.
He thought coach Ivan Cleary would only give him two minutes at the end of the game, but he played 40 minutes in the Warriors' 34-14 win.
The sight of star Australian halfback Johnathan Thurston getting past him to score was an image he never forgets.
''He doesn't look very powerful. I thought, 'I'm going to whack him. I'm going to put a really good shot on him'. He went over the top of me. I held him up, but it went to the video ref and he gave it a try.''
Lawrie went to England the following year, where he played for National League Two side, Doncaster, coached by British league great Ellery Hanley.
It was a dream season for Lawrie, who produced the best football of his career. His strong play helped Doncaster to grand final victory over Oldham and promotion.
He attracted interest from Super League team Wakefield Trinity and two other top-flight clubs.
''It was hard, though, because I was a quota player.
''Teams only get four quota spots over there. It was a bit of a gamble taking a division two player.''
Lawrie, wife, Katie, and children Jayton and Sophie returned to Christchurch and his beloved Hornby Panthers club the next season.
The chance to pass on his wisdom to Canterbury's emerging rugby league talent was something Lawrie enjoyed.
He was excited about pulling on the red and black jersey again after missing last year's campaign through injury.
Lawrie believed the Bulls had a squad who were capable of competing with the pacesetters this season.
''There are a lot of young kids coming through in Canterbury rugby league. I said to Gripper [coach Darrell Coad] earlier in the year, I'm not sure I'm good enough to make the team.
''I'll take token jerseys when I can get them,'' he laughed.
Canterbury Bulls team to play Vipers:
Ken Tofilau (Halswell), Danny Latu (Linwood), Erwin Sauni (Halswell), Vinnie Paul (Aranui), Cyrus Timo-Latu (Aranui), Izic Placid (Papanui), Darren Tonihi (Papanui), Paradise Mann (Hornby), Manu Weepu (Halswell), Chris Bamford (Celebration) JJ Smith (Aranui), Corey Lawrie (Hornby), Dan Moevao (Halswell). Interchange: Toi Sepuloni (Halswell), Agaese Fiso (Linwood), John Tafua (Celebration), Vinnie Tusa (Halswell).