Senior A sides to join for season

WAYNE MARTIN
Last updated 13:00 14/02/2013

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The Huia and Riwaka senior A rugby teams are joining forces and will compete as the Kahurangi Hawks in the Nelson Bays club competition.

Diminishing player numbers in the Motueka district in recent years has been a major factor in the clubs' decision to combine their senior A teams into one team which will compete in a six-team Nelson Bays club championship.

The new initiative was officially ratified at a meeting of the Tasman Rugby Union's council of delegates earlier this week.

Chairman of the new Kahurangi executive sub-committee, Doug Saunders-Loder, stressed that it was not an amalgamation of the two clubs but a mutual arrangement "to try to strengthen rugby generally in the country arena".

Both clubs will retain their own autonomy and still field separate teams in the Nelson Bays lower grade competitions.

"I think the decision's just become inevitable," Saunders-Loder said.

"The reality is, the limited number of players in the district has made the two clubs recognise that a combination was necessary to be able to provide a meaningful competition."

Saunders-Loder said that while there might be an understandable reluctance by some members of the respective clubs to accept the decision, "it's got to be an exciting time too towards the future and just seeing what we can make of this.

"Our No 1 priority is ensuring that we provide a division one competition for players within Motueka this year. What happens down the track will just be as a matter of progression.

"I genuinely believe there's enough young fellas around this district at the moment who could really benefit from the one senior A environment. There is a need for us to start encouraging more local involvement."

Kahurangi, which is currently involved in pre-season training, will be coached by last season's Huia coach, Gareth Cornelius, and Rhys Wells, a former Huia and Nelson Bays player. The team's new jersey design has yet to be finalised.

The Tasman union's rugby operations manager, Mike Kerrisk, said it was a positive move.

"It's been discussed for a little while now. Here at the TRU we were certainly favourable towards it and certainly understood their reasons behind it," Kerrisk said.

"We just really needed to take it to the table [on Monday] at our council of delegates [meeting] and just explain the pros and cons and get the approval from our club representatives."

Kerrisk said that reducing the Nelson Bays competition from seven to six teams would benefit both the local club competition and the Bayleys Tasman Trophy series involving Marlborough's six club sides.

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"There's no midweek fixtures, there's no missed weekends for any of the teams. It's certainly a positive as far as the rugby is concerned," he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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