Seven years adds veneer of success
OPINION: When I started out as a fresh-faced sports reporter at The Southland Times I remember being sent along to Elles Rd to cover the Southland District Rugby League club final.
I remember popping through the hedge at Elles Rd to see a handful of people watching the action unfold on a muddy ground.
At that stage there were only four teams in the Southland competition and the standard was close to nil.
At the time I recall wondering if it was really worth the time being there and the space in the paper that we gave the final, even though it wasn't a lot.
It was a blunt assessment but reality for rugby league in Southland at that time.
Fast forward the clock to yesterday and seven years after my early memories of covering a club league final and I'm pleasantly surprised with the transformation I have witnessed.
Yesterday instead of popping through the hedge at the Elles Rd league grounds I arrived at Rugby Park to watch the grand final.
That in itself is a major step forward.
But it isn't the sole reason things have improved remarkably.
That handful of people watching on that I can remember in my early days had changed to close to 1000 at yesterday's game.
And there has also been an obvious lift in atmosphere, with yesterday drums beating, kapa haka groups performing and the national anthem being played.
That's compared with the tooting of car horns I remember seven years ago.
The standard of play is now much better, with the intensity and skill level up a notch.
Southland's rugby league has had a makeover and it is hard to not be impressed.
How Southland District put on yesterday's grand final with the resources they have available to them, I'm not quite sure but it happened and most would have left yesterday pleased with their day out.
There is an interest in rugby league from some quarters of our community, that is obvious to see.
Whether they can continue to take steps forward with the current resources, as far as having next to no staff and the structure they have in place, will be interesting.
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