Gerard Cowley-Tuioti has come a long way since he played for Massey High School. Appearing in an 1A Schools rugby semi-final in 2010, the mid-sized lock has transitioned to the professional ranks of Super Rugby with the Blues in 2017.
Called into the side in 2015, he now looks very much at home. Starting in the sides monumental win over the British and Irish Lions, he has formed a good partnership with Scott Scrafton and Patrick Tuipulotu. Working beside men like Jimmy Tupou, Akira Ioane, Steven Luatua and the Blues legend Jerome Kaino, his solid work rate is earning high praise with the Blues team.
And while 2017 has not seen the side rise to the top eight, they have made big steps–with Cowley-Tuioti a big part of the group. He earned his place in the side that played in Super Rugby Round 15, and in the 22-16 victory over the Lions team.
Gerard Cowley-Tuioti: Earning High Praise With the Blues Franchise
At 1.96 meters, he is in the mid-size range, so brings more athleticism to the role of lock. Speed off the mark is crucial today, so his line speed and ability to cross the field is why he has secured more starts in Tana Umaga’s 2017 side. That consistency will only improve his game–raising it to the level required to perform in Super Rugby and for North Harbour at Mitre 10 Cup level; and possible higher honours.
That form will likely see Gerard Cowley-Tuioti signed through to 2018. By then; it is hoped, that the Blues can go even further. They could not win any of the New Zealand local derby games (drawing 16-16 with the Chiefs). Their ability to match the other Kiwi teams is a step-up that Cowley-Tuioti and his team mates must make if they want to return to the heydays of 2003.
Do that, and impress like he did on Wednesday, and the Auckland team may just reach the first semi-final since 2011. And in their efforts to rebuild the credibility of the Blues franchise, the side have made an effort to continually connect with the fans, to develop a stronger team culture (see above picture). That includes with many of the players; like Cowley-Tuioti, their Polynesian roots.
Samoan Heritage Celebrated in History Making Fixture
On Friday June 2, the Blues took the very first Super Rugby match to Apia, Samoa. It had many points of difference; as well as resulting in a good outcome for the Auckland team – won 34-29. That was the main driver, but growing the game, and for many it was reaching out to their Samoan/Polynesian family. This is where Gerard Cowley-Tuioti felt strongly.
With family from the Salelologa village, on the island of Savai’i. He, along with more than half the Blues touring squad, were in Samoa to play rugby and to celebrate the 55th anniversary of Samoa [Western Samoa] Independence Day. That meant he had his parents and family on hand to cheer him along.
It must have worked, as he was the Blues first try scorer, and was named the Most Valuable Player. “Big credit to all the boys, my big focus was to do my role and now that I am named MVP, were very proud as well as it was a team effort,” he said in the post-game presentation.
“But I’m fortunate to get it here in Samoa, in front of my family.”
A hugely proud moment in the young man’s career to date, who earned his 16th cap for the side on Wednesday against the British and Irish Lions.
Cowley-Tuioti Starts Against the Touring Lions Squad
An amazing result for the franchise, a win over the tourists will stay with everyone of the players. Cowley-Tuioti was his usual solid best, and the confidence gained from this week’s win, will add to his resume.
From a solid base, growing in his own role and place within the Blues, will help Gerard Cowley-Tuioti. It will be finalized on July 15 and the final game of 2017. They travel to Japan to face the Sunwolves. Win that game and it will round off the season. Finishing just below the Stormers, yet above sides like the Jaguares, Waratahs and Bulls. A good result, but it could have been so much better.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) June 7, 2017
If the win over the Lions proves anything to Cowley-Tuioti, Umaga and all Blues fans, is that ‘they are better than that’. A win over the Hurricanes; holding their 5-24 lead over the Crusaders, those were two games which (if won) might have promoted the side into play-off contention.
2018 must be the season where those important steps are made to improve the teams chances of higher success. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti is one of the ‘new generation’ of men who can aim to turn it around. And if that occurs, then NZ Rugby and Auckland rugby can only benefit from the Blues success.
“Main photo credit”