Taniwha forward Dan Pryor vows to bring a championship back to reborn Northland

Northland loose forward Dan Pryor has just one goal this season, and that is to bring championship glory back to the far North.

Pryor is one of the most popular and experienced players in the Northland squad and has been through many of the club's highs and lows since his debut in 2010.

After finishing an encouraging third in the championship in 2014, coach Derren Witcombe departed for Japan and Northland took a steep downward slide - winning only one match in the next two seasons, including a brutal 19-game losing streak.

Now the 29-year-old wants to repay the loyal fans who stuck with the side through those well-documented struggles.

"It was very emotional. It was a tough and dark time for the Taniwha but I guess it was all learning, I guess," said Pryor.

"I know we were down 30 points most games but the boys still showed up with heart and that will help the boys for the rest of the season.

Dan Pryor after a loss to Otago last season.
Dan Pryor after a loss to Otago last season. Photo credit: Getty Images

"The stuff the young guys have learned and I learned and most of the players learned is being able to battle through anything."

Pryor believes coach Witcombe's return is one of the reasons why the Whangarei-based side look rejuvenated out on the field. They've won three of their five games and sit second in the Championship halfway through the season.

"He is a good man. I have known him for a few years when he first started and he has come a long way as a coach.

"He is really good and tough which is good for the boys which keep them on edge and honest, which is what you want and he makes sure the boys don't cut corners."

Despite a successful start to the season, the squad remains focused on improving every game as they work towards becoming a force in the national provincial championship.

"We didn't sign up to make up numbers. There is a big belief in the squad. We have a good squad this year so definitely it has always been the goal.

Dan Pryor with brother Kara, Matt and Ross Wright, and Jack and Josh Godhue.
Dan Pryor with brother Kara, Matt and Ross Wright, and Jack and Josh Godhue. Photo credit: Getty Images

"The job isn’t finished and we know that. Our feet are firmly on the ground and we still have half the season to go so we have some targets and goals to achieve as a group."

Since the two-tier system was introduced to provincial rugby in New Zealand, Northland have always been in the championship division - in other words, the second tier.

With 2017 being the clubs most successful in a few seasons, they now have a rare chance of pushing for a spot in the Premiership. 

"To be honest it is about winning for this team. I have been here seven years and I love this province so it would be nice to bring something back if I'm really honest with you."

Meanwhile Witcombe, fresh from a two-year stint with the Mitsubishi Dynaboars in Japan, is staying humble, insisting all they want to do is improve week-by-week.

Northland coach Derren Witcombe.
Northland coach Derren Witcombe. Photo credit: Getty Images

"There are two games we should have won and we didn't," said the former Taniwhas hooker.

"People can get anxious when you talk about having to win. We want to perform between every game and then the results should take care of themselves." 

If Northland were to achieve such feat it would be great for not only the competition, but the sport in New Zealand, Witcombe says.

"It would be exciting for the province and everyone and I think it would be good for rugby."

Northland will face Manawatu in their next match and still have matches against Otago, Counties Manukau, Hawkes Bay and Wellington to round out the season.