Web group rallies backing for Turbos

23:02, Oct 01 2009
Web group rallies backing for Turbos
KEEPING THE FAITH: Hayden Pritchard and his Facebook group.

Social networking site Facebook is playing its part to keep the Manawatu Turbos in the Air New Zealand Cup.

The Turbos could be on the NZRU chopping block as the union maintains it will cull four teams from the Air New Zealand Cup.

A new division will be created taking the dropped teams and promoting two from the Heartland Championship called division one.

Palmerston North's Hayden Pritchard, 20, is behind the Facebook group "Keep the Turbos in the Top Division", which had more than 1660 members earlier yesterday.

The group has been active for only two months and Mr Pritchard said he was happy with how many people have got on board.

"I made a group, sent an invite to all my friends and it went from there," he said.

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"We want to show that even people from outside of Palmy want Manawatu to stay."

The speed at which the numbers grew took Mr Pritchard by surprise.

"I was initially [surprised], because I had a few hundred friends from all around New Zealand from school and I knew they were all rugby fans so they would get on board.

"It just skyrocketed over the first few weeks. I didn't think we'd get 1300 over the first few weeks. It's a fair whack – more than I thought."

People from regions around the country have been crying out to the NZRU to take a backward step and leave the competition in its current format.

And they're not just talk. Sky TV said its viewership figures for provincial rugby had increased by up to 75 per cent on last year.

Mr Pritchard said it was important to have a local team in the top flight.

"It brings high profile people to the region. It's just a matter of people actually coming to the region and seeing Palmerston North. If we lose the team we will lose the players as well and I think there's a lot of community spirit behind the team."

Manawatu Standard