Name change bumped into touch by league fans

DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 05:00 22/11/2010
Wellington PR man and rugby league stalwart Gerry Morris.
KEVIN STENT/Sunday Star-Times
PEEVED: Wellington PR man and rugby league stalwart Gerry Morris is annoyed at attempts to change the name of Rugby League Park.

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A move to change the name of Rugby League Park to Kaharoa has been shelved after opposition from fans and officials – and accusations of interference from the International Rugby Board.

Rugby league stalwart and PR man Gerry Morris believes the IRB has pulled strings on the name change ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup.

"I am just pissed off that the archaic pink gin-drinking IRB have dictated to New Zealand when rugby and league in Wellington have a very sophisticated and respectful relationship.

"The IRB don't want teams training on a field called Rugby League Park. How Noah's Ark is that?"

But Wellington City Council's Rugby World Cup director Derek Fry denied any IRB involvement in the proposed name-change.

"It's not a condition of the IRB in any way."

The name Kaharoa – meaning place of hard work – was suggested to the council by the Wellington Tenths Trust. The name would also be used for the council's artificial turf pitch at Te Whaea.

Wellington Rugby Union took over Rugby League Park after the 1999 closure of its former home at Athletic Park. The union spent $2.7 million improving the park.

Wellington Rugby League general manager Jason Hemson said the deal agreed at the time with the council was for the name of the park to remain, and for it to be a shared facility between the two codes. If the conditions were changed, then a compensation claim to the council would be part of any settlement process, Mr Hemson said.

"The park was set up and funded through the hard work of rugby league people."

Competitive league hasn't been played at the park since 2000 but it has been used as a training venue, most recently by the Kiwis ahead of their Four Nations clash last month against England.

While WRL had played a part in the demise of competition games held on the park, Hemson said he had tried to rectify the situation.

"During my 18 months in the role we have been given the option [by the council] to play one game, over one weekend, with one week's notice," Hemson said.

Council sports portfolio leader John Morrison confirmed that the name change was shelved because "rugby league wasn't happy".

"There are real grievances they hold but they also acknowledge that they drifted away from the park themselves.

"But they have to realise that things have moved on from 10 years ago and the park is now heavily used by the Hurricanes, Wellington Lions and the All Blacks."

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A solution suggested by Morrison is that Wellington Rugby League investigates other facility and resource options and comes back to the council with a proposal.

The council would take another look at the renaming issue in the new year, he said.

- The Dominion Post

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