Caileb Gerrard and Michael Aliifaalogo are the latest Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union players to switch allegiances to Hamilton as the Hawks push for a record fifth straight premiership.
Outside back Gerrard and prop Aliifaalogo further strengthens a virtually unchanged first grade squad, which will take to St John Oval on Saturday at the club’s annual Mick “Whale” Curry memorial sevens tournament.
Gerrard and Aliifaalogo join Hamilton from Southern Beaches, who have also lost last year’s player-coach and two-time Anderson Medal winner Va Talaileva to the Hawks.
Hamilton, outside the retirement of halfback Ivan Walkling and uncertainty surrounding injured centre Paddy Kilmurray, have managed to keep the majority of their troops for 2019.
The likes of captain Steve Lamont, Joe Akkersdyk, Pete Maxwell, Seva Rokobaro, Tom Coupe, Dane Sherratt and Kirisome Laulala are all set to again wear the blue and gold hoops.
“It’s the most retention we’ve had between seasons for a while,” Hawks coach Scott Coleman said.
Coach Coleman was having a final run at training on Thursday night before naming his two teams to feature in the country men’s division of the Mick “Whale” Curry memorial sevens.
“All of our new guys will have a run at some stage,” Coleman said.
Central Coast-based North Lakes, defending country champions at the Hamilton sevens, have also entered two teams.
Last year’s XV-a-side grand finalists Maitland, Merewether, University, Singleton and Nelson Bay are the other Newcastle and Hunter clubs in the mix.
Seven Shute Shield clubs will contest the premier men’s section while Waratah, Hamilton, University and Nelson Bay are in the women’s premier category.
Play gets underway at 8am and finals are from 5:30pm.
Under-19 boys and under-16 girls competition will be played on Friday from 4:30pm.
Australian women’s sevens quartet Laura Brown, Dominique Du Toit, Yasmine Meakes and Emma Tonegato will be guests along with former national men’s sevens captain James Stannard.