During his rugby coaching days in Hawke's Bay Adam McDonald was quick to sidestep favourites' tags.
The former Hawke's Bay B, Hawke's Bay Sevens, Hastings Rugby and Sports premiers and Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports premiers mentor adopts a similar approach with the Jiangsu Sports Bureau Training Centre's women's sevens team he has coached for 18 months.
When it was suggested to him the third-ranked club side in China had to be favourites for the Hawke's Bay title in Waipukurau tomorrow, McDonald bounced the tag the way of the Feilding Old Boys Oroua side.
"That Feilding side is unknown to us ... it could turn out to be the Manawatu women's team in disguise," McDonald quipped.
The former Hawke's Bay policeman is enjoying his role with a side which includes several players hoping to make the Chinese team which will aim to qualify for the Rio Olympics.
"These girls will jump over flames and dance on hot coals in order to train. That's the philosophy the Chinese adopt in order to succeed and they take it into sport ... they know a gold medal will be rewarded," McDonald explained.
"While they are very disciplined to training they are very individualistic. It's hard to teach them about team work in rugby."
McDonald's limited knowledge of the Chinese language adds to the challenge.
"I have a live-in interpreter 24-7. All communication is done through him. I try to learn a bit but I don't go out of my way ... four years in Portugal was tough enough. I don't know if Chinese is going to help me in the future," McDonald said.
A former Hawke's Bay and NZ Combined Services softball coach, McDonald said he would consider taking on a technical adviser's role with the China women's sevens side if it was offered. He pointed out a foreigner was unlikely to be appointed to the head coach role.
"I will find out in September if I will keep my current role or come home."
McDonald's team's second New Zealand tour is part of the buildup to the August club championships.
"While a berth in the final will satisfy me, a gold medal will satisfy the bureau," McDonald said.
One of McDonald's players capable of stealing the limelight at Central Park is winger-sweeper Liyuan Yuan who has been a member of the Chinese national squad but is yet to crack the top seven. A couple of her teammates can match her for pace too.
"While we've got plenty of speed, our girls won't shy away from the physical stuff. Our girls understand the physicality of New Zealand rugby," McDonald said.
Two weeks ago McDonald's troops won the New Zealand Marist tournament in Wellington and, despite being a club side up against countries including Canada and South Africa, recently finished fourth at an IRB tournament in Japan.
At least two other club teams from China have made tours to New Zealand recently.
"Teams don't play each other often back in China as they don't want other teams to see what they are up to. But they love coming to New Zealand and they love getting as much knowledge as they can out of New Zealand coaches," McDonald added.
The Hawke's Bay referees will again select the players of the tournament in the three grades tomorrow. Last year they were spot on with their selections.
All three winners have since been recognised at higher levels. Men's winner Gillies Kaka is a contracted All Black Sevens player, colts winner Trinity Spooner-Neera and women's winner Krysten Duffill have both attended national training camps.
Havelock North were hoping to have the services of Kaka in their quest for a fourth consecutive premier men's title tomorrow but All Black Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens has given the villagers the thumbs-down. Kaka had a virus in Las Vegas last weekend which limited his game time and he lost 3kg.
Havelock North manager Conrad Waitoa said Kaka would have a waterboy's role with the defending champions.
Twenty men's teams, 15 colts sides and six women's teams will be in action tomorrow.