The Tasman Makos are aiming to turn their crowd-pleasing brand of rugby into a crowd-funded one.
In what is believed to be a first for a New Zealand rugby union, the Makos have launched a crowd-funding campaign to help them compete with the country's biggest unions.
The Makos capped a sparkling season last year by winning the ITM championship and will kick off the first season in the top-tier premiership against Hawke's Bay in Blenheim next weekend. Tasman Rugby's commercial and marketing manager, Les Edwards, said the Makos were about $200,000 short of the maximum salary cap of $1 million that big city unions spent on bigger and stronger squads.
The cap was set at 36 per cent of a union's commercial revenue, and despite the generosity of sponsors, the region did not have the commercial base to match unions like Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury.
"What we are trying to do is to come up with different, innovative ways to bridge that gap," he said. "Crowd funding has taken off."
The aim of the online campaign was to tap into the diaspora of Tasman fans all over the country, and perhaps overseas, as well as locals who could not attend the games and others "who support the underdog".
Using the website liftoff.co.nz, people can donate from as little as $5, with those who donate more than $40 receiving Makos merchandise.
The campaign, which has a target of $50,000, was closing in on its first $1000 yesterday.
Auckland woman Margaret Muir, whose daughter Jocelyn is engaged to Makos utility back Bryce Heem, has donated $120 to the cause.
"It seems unfair that Tasman, having won their championship last year, are now competing with people getting so much more funding than they are," she said.
Muir said her first taste of Makos pride was when she went to a game with her cousin's Nelson family five years ago.
She was cheering for Auckland in the midst of Tasman supporters and quickly realised "how very passionate they were about their team".
With the family connection she was now "totally Makos all the way".
She recognised the commitment players and their families needed to compete at the higher levels of the game, and also wanted to help ensure that her cousin's rugby-loving boys and the passionate Tasman community continued to have a team to support.
The Makos will host the free SBS Bank family fun day at Trafalgar Park tomorrow from 9am to 12.30pm.
- The Nelson Mail