Rugby fans fear they won't see club final

TOBY ROBSON AND COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 07:26 30/07/2014
Tawa win Jubilee Cup 2013
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Ecstatic: Thousands of club rugby fans were on hand at the Hutt Recreation Ground last year when Tawa won the the Jubilee Cup for the first time. Wainui supporters are expected to flood the ground this weekend.

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Wainuiomata's army of green and black supporters are worried their view of history will be obscured when they invade the Hutt Recreation Ground on Sunday to watch the Jubilee Cup final.

About 3000 fans are expected to attend the premier club rugby final between Hutt Old Boys Marist and Wainuiomata, but the ground has capacity to seat only about 500.

It is the first time Wainui have reached the final since the club was formed in 1946. As a result, the supporters' club is expecting more than 2000 to head over the hill.

Add in home fans and casual observers and there could be close to 4000 people in attendance.

Bleachers have been brought in from around the Hutt Valley, giving seating for about another 600, but Wainuiomata club stalwart Kim Eastergaard said he was disappointed to learn the Wellington Rugby Union would not be putting in more.

"We are disappointed that our fans are going to have to go over there and stand and, as a result, probably not get to see their team play with a good view. For the cost of some temporary seating, I'd think that's worthwhile.

"With Wellington playing Manawatu there on Friday night, they've missed the bus. Surely they could put a stand up for both games."

The union and Hutt City Council say fans' fears are misplaced, and the 600 temporary seats plus the 500-seat grandstand will be adequate for the big day.

Parks and gardens divisional manager Bruce Hodgins said the council had no concerns about overcrowding, and dismissed the suggestion 3000 people would turn up.

"I think this will be sufficient. I don't think there will be any issue with safety or overcrowding."

Fans standing at a sports ground was "fine" because it was a tradition, he said.

A temporary stand was erected at Hutt Rec a year ago, when the Jubilee Cup final coincided with the All Blacks' training match against Wellington and Canterbury, an event which saw the ground's capacity temporarily bumped up to 6000.

Wellington Rugby Union chief executive James Te Puni said a repeat was neither financially viable nor necessary, based on the past three years.

"My understanding is we will have a total of about 1000 seats, which is the same as we had two years ago, and I think three years ago at the same venue . . . and we didn't get a single complaint.

"It's a great occasion and, when the weather is good, standing on the sideline is part of what club rugby is all about. It's what the people of Wainui do every week, it's what Hutt Old Boys' supporters did last week."

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- The Dominion Post

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