The Franklin Storm were the big surprise package of 2018 in the Auckland Rugby League Premiership competitions, powering through to the finals in their debut year with a string of impressive results.
Kiwileaguecentral.com sat down with the driving force behind the Storm, player/coach Jody Henry, to review the season.
I definitely had a hope, and in some ways I was confident. I knew the players we had around had a good chance of being successful. We had a lot of good athletes, and it was just about training them up for league. We had a good mix of experience and some youth. I had confidence that we would do OK.
You’re a Franklin boy who headed overseas and enjoyed some success in Australia. What did it mean to do this in your own backyard?
It meant a lot to me. I always wanted to give back to our community when I returned, I didn’t know how I’d do it, but I knew I wanted to. Being from Franklin, with the passion I have for league, this has been one of the real highlights of my career.
I am really happy it’s happened and is off the ground now. Now we just have to make sure it’s not a one-hit wonder. I’m pretty proud of what we have done.
And how about the support the Franklin Storm have received? You had great turnouts to most of your games this year…
We knew we had a lot of support, especially in Pukekohe, that had been the case for years. People from outside the area couldn’t believe how many people came out on a rainy day for our first game against Manurewa this year. But it showed that league had been missed out there.
It’s huge for the community, our numbers of supporters kept growing every week and at away games we probably had more supporters than the home team did. The community was buzzing.
You also had one of your players, Reuben Tolovae, named as the overall best Sharman Cup player of 2018. How did that feel for you as a coach?
It was a proud moment. I felt that I had some impact on Reuben this year. He had always had the talent, but the way we played suited his style this year, and the way we helped develop him and his game was big.
It was a proud moment for me as a coach and for the whole Franklin area, for him to get that top award.
The Storm team had some faces we hadn’t seen before, so outside of Reuben, who really impressed you this year?
I look at the all-round stuff, not just on the field. How they act off the field, how they behave with their families, how they lead. We had some good individuals this year. Ben Kingi was one, and made the Counties Manukau squad at the end of the season too.
Jason Tau is a great leader, he’s not much of a talker, but leads with his actions, and he was one of our most consistent players this year.
We also had some awesome young guys. Tuhi Pompey – that was his first year playing in a men’s competition – he is still at school, and that experience for him was something different mentally and physically, and he held his own.