Wed, Mar 27, 2024 4:34 PM

Mako coaches confirmed for 2024 campaigns


Jack Malcolm

The Tasman Mako have announced their head coaches for the upcoming seasons.

Mako coach Gray Cornelius will helm the team for the next two years, having signed on to take sole responsibility of the team, while La Toya Mason will take charge of the women’s FPC team.

With his co-head coach from 2022 and 2023, Dan Perrin, stepping away from the team due to his commitments with the Crusaders, 48-year-old Gray’s first order of business is finding a suitable replacement.

He says that’s the next piece of the puzzle, but one they have already started solving ahead of another crack at the NPC championship.

That’s always the ultimate goal, he says, but it’s not the only way to gauge success.

“Obviously we want to be successful, but what does success look like?

“As a coach at the NPC level, I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing guys go on. To use the Mako as a pathway to Super Rugby and even higher honours.”

La Toya Mason, coach of the Mako women's FPC team. Photo supplied. 

La Toya, an Aucklander who represented England at the highest level 70 times and won a Women’s Rugby World Cup, was assistant to Mel Bosman in the 2023 Farah Palmer Cup season that saw the Mako team make the Championship semi-final.

With Mel moving into the USA Eagles coaching setup, the chance to take the reins at the Mako was too good an opportunity to turn down for La Toya.

“I’m incredibly excited to be entrusted with the Mako for the next two seasons. Building on the success of last season is a great challenge, but one I’m relishing,” she says.

With some key players stepping away from the Mako, like midfielder Alex Nankivell and first five-eighth Mitch Hunt, there’s an opportunity for some new talent to step up to the plate, says Gray.

“There are opportunities for boys in our academy, it’s pretty exciting to know those roles are there.

“We’re a young province stacked with so many players who return, and love to return, because of that culture.”

For Gray, who started coaching Marlborough Boys’ College as a long-serving physical education teacher in 2009, it has been a classic rise through the ranks.

He took the school team, led by future All Black Atu Moli, to a Press Cup win in 2013 and continued coaching until 2018.

From there he linked up with Tasman’s B side, before stepping up to an assistant coaching role with the Mako for three seasons, before being promoted to the top job in 2022 alongside Perrin.

TRU Board Chair, Baz Henare, is thrilled to have the leadership for the two Mako teams secured for two years, “The Board are delighted to confirm Gray and La Toya’s commitment for the next two years. Their dedication to our programme is contagious amongst our high-Performance staff and players. They have our full backing, and we look forward to a successful period for our Mako teams with Gray and La Toya at the respective helms.”

Both head coaches will now begin the task of populating their coaching staffs ahead of the 2024 Bunnings NPC and Farah Palmer Cup seasons.

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