Manawatu won't be investing in the Hurricanes

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 12:18 15/11/2012

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Manawatu won't be investing any money in the new Hurricanes entity which was set up this week. And they will no longer have a representative on the Hurricanes board with chairman Steve Morris having stepped down after two seasons because the new investors have claimed the board seats.

The Hurricanes are open to investments of 12.5 per cent (about $400,000) from their constituent unions, or a consortium of them, with Wellington maintaining their 50 per cent shareholding.

"We don't have money to invest," Morris said.

Only unions which take a stake in the franchise can expect dividends from profits. But the dividends have dried up in recent years anyway, a long way from the annual $100,000 payouts from the days when they filled Athletic Park for most games.

Manawatu's own precarious financial positions since 2008 means they have had to cut their cloth. And Taranaki and Hawke's Bay are also understood not to be interested.

Morris said it wasn't the reason the New Zealand Rugby Union put the franchises out for tender.

"They wanted new money to come in."

The only unions who have been able to afford to invest are the already cash-rich Super Rugby venue unions such as Wellington, Auckland and Canterbury.

Morris received a letter terminating his tenure. He had made sure Manawatu's voice got heard and kept nagging them about involving Manawatu players.

Morris said now Manawatu must rely on the Hurricanes wanting to include the other unions, rather than be part of the decision-making.

"They are making all the noises that they want the region to be involved."

Investor Gareth Morgan has made it clear he got involved to keep Super Rugby in Wellington.

Other board members gone are Peter Crawford (Taranaki), Steve Lunn (Hawke's Bay) and Malcolm McLean (Poverty Bay) who represented the Heartland unions.

Manawatu haven't had a player at the Hurricanes since Aaron Cruden left there at the end of 2011. There is a chance flanker Callum Gibbins might be picked for their wider training group for next season.

"The fact of the matter is that now franchises can contract directly from outside their regions, players can go anywhere they want."

Morris is satisfied the Hurricanes are committed to the age-group competitions like the under-16s and 18.

"That's the area where we want to be heard."

From the correspondence he has seen, the Hurricanes want to stage one game a year outside Wellington. So Palmerston North has a one-in-three chance of a match.

But Morris is adamant his union will not stand a financial loss from such a match, as when they hosted the Highlanders in 2009.

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The game against the Stormers next year is still being negotiated but the Manawatu union will need the assistance of Arena Manawatu or the Palmerston North City Council to get it done.

While Manawatu people lean towards the Chiefs and the Highlanders, because that's where all of the Manawatu Super players are, Morris said people like to see a big game on their doorstep.

The ideal would be to host the Highlanders versus the Chiefs but that would bring in about 25,000 to the Wellington stadium.

- Manawatu Standard

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