Tessmann Profiles Perth Spirit Squad

By Pete Fairbairn, 18.10.16

Perth Spirit have stormed into the 2016 Buildcorp NRC Grand Final, after upsetting the Sydney Rays at Rat Park on Sunday afternoon, and this Saturday in Tamworth against the NSW Country Eagles they’ll have the opportunity to exorcise the demons of losing the 2014 decider to Brisbane City.

Spirit Captain Heath Tessmann didn’t play that game, but as many as nine of those who did remain in contention to be selected for the ‘Pigs’ this week. Their squad this year is yet again a mix of youth and experience, and of professional players and stars from Perth’s Pindan Premier Grade.

We spoke to Tessmann in the lead-up to the game, and asked him to provide the inside knowledge on each of his squad’s players in preparation for the big dance.

Perth Spirit Pocket Player Profiles – By Heath Tessmann

Ainsley, Jermaine (6 games in 2016):
“Jermaine Ainsley is the future of tighthead props in Australia. I have no doubt he’ll be a Wallaby one day; his mentality, and his focus on scrummaging first and foremost, is something you don’t see in young guys too often.”

Alatimu, AJ (8 games, 6 points):
“The Iceman, AJ is one of the best kickers off the tee that I have ever seen and he has been a great find in this year's NRC."

Brache, Marcel (5 games, 18 points):
“Marcel is our eternal optimist; he’s always putting his hand up to do extra work and he’s always making sure that the group stays up and about.”

Burges, Russell (5 games):
“We call him Conor McGregor; he is one of the real characters of our team and he’s just happy that his talent has finally been discovered, as he told us.”

Cowan, Pek (3 games):
“Pek is one of the ultimate Rugby warriors, he leads from the front every time he plays and he always gives his all. We’re best mates so I have to be careful not to pump his tyres too much.”

Eden, Manihera (6 games, 14 points):
“Mani is one of the finds of this NRC; he is an extremely focused young man and a great competitor who has had a big impact.”

Hardwick, Richard (6 games, 12 points):
“Richie is just making every post a winner this year, and he is really growing into his role as a 7 and has been rewarded with a Western Force contract for next year.”

Havilli, Onehunga (8 games, 6 points):
“He is starting to learn to love scrums, which I am very happy with, and he is an excellent young prospect wo is going to go a long way.”

Haylett-Petty, Ross (5 games, 18 points):
“Rainman Ross could be absolutely anything, and he has the focus and determination to be anything. I love playing alongside him.”

Knapp, Grayson (4 games):
“Grayson is one of the most reliable guys in the squad, who will always do his job and his work which is what you need from a second rower.”

Koteka, Kane (3 games):
“Him and Richard Hardwick have been pushing each other the whole way through this competition, and hopefully he’ll be right to play this week and we can unleash ‘The Undertaker’ on the Eagles.

Lance, Jonno (6 games, 34 points):
“He is our backs skipper, and he guides the ship just about better than anybody I’ve ever played with. Obviously he is touch and go with injury to play this week. If he doesn’t get up to play this week, his work with all of our backs this year has been invaluable regardless. He’s done a lot of work with Ian Prior and AJ Alatimu, but even guys all the way out to the wing, helping them out with lines and what he sees.”

Louwrens, Ryan (7 games, 24 points):
“One of the most explosive and powerful 9’s I have played with; Ryan can turn nothing into something very quickly.”

Masirewa, Semisi (3 games, 12 points):
“Semisi has some of the fastest feet you will ever see, and he has come back from a tough injury he suffered in the Pindan Premier Grade Final to work his way back into our starting team for the Semi Final.”

Matuauto, Ammon (6 games, 18 points):
“He is one of the silkiest players I have ever worked with. He is like Ryan Louwrens in that he can create something from nothing very quickly, and he just reads the game so well.”

Meakes, Billy (7 games, 6 points):
“Billy has been a massive find for the Spirit and the Force in 2017. He has shown his class in this competition, and he’ll be huge for us this weekend.”

Morahan, Luke (4 games, 30 points):
“He’s just a freak. ‘Moz is gonna Moz’ is what we say! I’ve been lucky enough to play with him since he was seventeen years old, and I think he scored with his first touch in first grade and he has been doing it ever since.”

Mulikihaamea, Laione (8 games):
“Muli is the heart of our Perth Spirit team. He is one of the most passionate guys in the group, and the energy he brings every game is infectious and goes through the whole squad.”

Prior, Ian (5 games, 26 points):
“Ian Prior is our little general, and nobody has a feel or read for the game better than him. Whether he is playing 9 or 10, his performances are amazingly consistent.”

Rangi, Anaru (4 games, 6 points):
“The Axe Murderer brings huge energy, and he loves the physicality which is exactly what you want from any front rower in this competition. He keeps turning up week in, week out, and putting in some big hits.”

Ruru, Michael (7 games):
“Michael is our half back, but also our half forward, as he has played flanker for us as well this year. He can create something out of nowhere, and he has one of the best halfback kicking games in the competition.”

Scoble, Harry (5 games):
“Rusty is our workhorse, and he has had a great year with both the Piggys and the Force. You always know exactly what you’re going to get from him; he’ll always do what’s asked of him, and he’ll always do it really well.”

Stander, Brynard (7 games, 12 points):
“Brynard is our battering ram, and he is one of the hardest guys you will ever have to tackle. He performs for 80 minutes every week and is uncompromising in everything that he does, and he’s been huge for us every game this year.”

Stringer, Kieran (8 games):
“Kieran weighs about 75kg ringing wet, but he plays like he is 115kg! He has answered the call for us in a big way, as we were pretty short of locks this year. He works a twelve-hour day and then turns up at training every night, never complains and then just rips in and gets the job done.”

Tapuai, Ben (8 games, 6 points):
“Taps is just rowing and growing every time he plays in this competition. He’s another guy I have played with and against for many years, and he still surprises me with some of the skills that he applies to different situations on the field. The way he and Billy have worked together in the midfield is a great sign for us this weekend.”

Vasukicakau, Eric (7 games, 14 points):
“Some of the biggest hands you will ever see! He’s another one of the Club guys who have been a real find, and I think he should be somebody who is in the Australian Barbarians team at the end of the season. He is a great finisher, and his defensive reads have been sound all year.”

Vui, Shambeckler (8 games, 6 points):
“Shambeckler is somebody I would hate to have to tackle! He loves his contact, he loves being physical and he loves putting his hand up to run with the ball (and through things more often than not!) He has a big future, and a strong name!”

So there you have it; the Perth Spirit squad introduced one by one, in the words of their leader Heath Tessmann. As for ‘Tess’? Let us just say that he is a follow-me leader, whose big-game experience, calm temperament and sheer determination will hold him in good stead this weekend.

On behalf of RUPA, all the best to the Perth Spirit players this weekend; stay tuned for Ned Hanigan’s profiles of the NSW Country Eagles!

Pete Fairbairn
Communications Manager
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