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Billy Harmon retains Highlanders captaincy for 2024, All Black in leadership group

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

The Highlanders’ reigning Players’ Player Billy Harmon will lead the team once again in 2024, as confirmed by head coach Clarke Dermody on Wednesday.

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Harmon, 29, has played 34 matches for the Highlanders’ after signing with the Dunedin-based franchise in 2021. Since then, the star flanker hasn’t looked back.

The Highlanders’ enforcer is the backbone of the team, with the loose forward picked up Defender and Player of the Year honours at last year’s end-of-season awards night.

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Harmon has also featured on a regular basis with the Maori All Blacks, was included in the All Blacks XV’s tour to Japan last year, and was nominated for the Tom French Memorial Maori Player of the Year last year.

While the accolades practically speak for themselves, head coach Clark Dermody has shared an insightful explanation into why Harmon has retained the Highlanders’ captaincy.

“Billy leads by his actions – especially on the field. He’s very measured around his delivery of messages and he’s really calm, which is hugely important,” Dermody said in a statement.

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“He’s one of our best players on the field and well respected by the team from what he did last year, and I know he’s looking forward to leading the team again.”

Harmon will be supported by a leadership group that includes All Black Ethan de Groot, Sean Withy, Jona Nareki and new recruit Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens.

Midfielder Sam Gilbert will also support Harmon as the Highlanders’ vice-captain in 2024.

“Sam coming in as vice-captain is new for us,” Dermody added. ‘Sam’s got a good rugby brain and is involved heavily around our strategy.

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“They (Billy and Sam) work well together and are well aligned already.

“The leadership group has a good spread of experience and youth and we’ve also got the opportunity to grow our younger leaders and bring them into the group when we see fit.”

Coach Dermody has named 30 players in a squad to face the Hurricanes in a pre-season trial at Forsyth Barr Stadium this weekend, which includes both the skipper and vice-captain.

Daniel Lienert-Brown, Ricky Jackson and Jermaine Ainsley make up the front row, while Pari Pari Parkinson and Max Hicks will pack down behind them as the starting locks.

Captain Harmon joins Oliver Haig and Hugh Renton in a formidable loose forwards trio.

All Black Folau Fakatava joins Wales international Rhys Patchell in the halves, while Sam Gilbert and Jakee Te Hiwi will look to make their mark as the midfield pairing this week.

Wing Jona Nareki, Timoci Tavatavanawai and Connor Garden-Bachop will also link up for what promises to be an unmissable outside backs combination.

All Blacks prop Ethan de Groot is not in the 30, but the Highlanders have revealed that he’ll probably be available to play the Crusaders in next week’s trial.

Highlanders team to take on the Hurricanes in pre-season trial

  1. Daniel Lienert-Brown
  2. Ricky Jackson
  3. Jermaine Ainsley
  4. Pari Pari Parkinson
  5. Max Hicks
  6. Oliver Haig
  7. Billy Harmon (c)
  8. Hugh Renton
  9. Folau Fakatava
  10. Rhys Patchell
  11. Jona Nareki
  12. Sam Gilbert (vc)
  13. Jake Te Hiwi
  14. Timoci Tavatavanawai
  15. Connor Garden-Bachop

Reserves

Ayden Johnstone, Henry Bell, Saula Ma’u, Fabian Holland, Hugo Plummer, Blair Ryall, Sean Withy, Will Stodart, Nathan Hastie, Ajay Faleafaga, Martin Bogado, Matt Whaanga, Tanielu Tele’a, Jonah Lowe, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens

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