Motueka eyes 10,000 for rugby clash

ALASTAIR PAULIN
Last updated 13:00 05/02/2014
Rugby game
ALASTAIR PAULIN/Fairfax NZ

DRIVING FORCE: Some of the people involved in staging the pre-season game between the Crusaders and the Highlanders are, front, from left: Barry Dowler and George Sturgeon from Good Sports Motueka, with match operations manager Jo MacLean from the Tasman Rugby Union. Rear: Tasman Rugby Union club development manger Jenelle Strickland and community rugby manager Kahu Marfell.

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Motueka is gearing up for its third Super Rugby pre-season game and organisers are hoping for a crowd of 10,000.

Match operations manager Jo MacLean from the Tasman Rugby Union said that late on Tuesday ticket sales were at about 4000 but the man behind staging the game in Motueka, George Sturgeon, said "I'll be pissed off if we don't get 10,000."

The previous Crusaders pre-season games in Motueka in 2008 and 2010 attracted 10,000 and 8000 punters respectively.

The 818-seat "gold" grandstand is sold out and sales in the temporary 3744-seat "silver" stand at Sports Park Motueka were tracking well, said Ms MacLean.

Wooden "bronze" stands are at the four corners of the park and general admission tickets are for the truck beds and grass behind the goalposts.

Portions of the proceeds from the match go to the TRU, to junior rugby and to Good Sports Motueka, the trust that runs the Sports Park facility in Motueka.

Mr Sturgeon said that were it not for the promise of funds for junior rugby, he wouldn't have done all the work necessary to bring the match to Motueka. With a crew of volunteers and some workers from Talley's, he has turned the club rugby field into a sparkling stadium over several weeks, including Sunday working bees.

"With games like this, you couldn't do it without the Motueka people, George and his crew setting up the stands, all the volunteers and even [Motueka ticket outlet] Whitwell's, which has had almost a fulltime person selling tickets," said Ms MacLean.

Motueka businesses are hoping the game will attract plenty of free-spending Cantabrians. Dave Moloney, the chairman of High St business booster group Our Town Motueka said a centrepiece of the group's campaign was a window display competition with a $1000 prize to be announced on Friday.

"It's so exciting. People have put a lot of effort into it - it's not just your standard balloons and streamers. We've seen suits of armour and mannequins and all sorts.

"We want visitors to make the most of our hospitality and hopefully spend the weekend here but we're also focused on return business. We hope they'll have such a good time that they'll come back again next year."

High St retailer Kendall Riley from Abel Tasman Outdoors transformed one window into a black and red Crusaders display and the other into a blue and gold Highlanders promotion, complete with a swimsuit-clad mannequin holding a sign reading: "Come on Brad Thorn. Giz us a kiss."

He said he had already convinced some Christchurch shoppers to buy tickets to the game.

Mr Riley said the commercial impact of the game was "hard to quantify because it has always been around a long weekend when we have lots of visitors anyway but it does make the town buzz the day before and the day after. It's up to us to convert that buzz into sales."

The Crusaders arrive in Motueka on Thursday and are staying at Motueka's Top 10 Holiday Park and the Highlanders are flying up on Friday.

The Crusaders will be the guests at Te Awhina marae's Waitangi Day celebration, which starts with a powhiri at 11am and will feature Maori games and a "mix and mingle" session with some players until 12.30pm. The gold coin koha event runs until 2pm.

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Fans will have another chance to meet the players at Kaiteriteri between 4.30pm and 6pm.

Both teams are catching a Friday night flight out of Nelson, meaning they will have to leave Motueka at 8pm, so Ms MacLean said the time for post-game signature gathering would be limited.

Gates open at 3pm, entertainment is from 3.30pm and the game kicks off at 5.30pm.

- The Nelson Mail

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