Saturday, 17 November 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

The Mercury Bay Boars - 10 years of whanau

By Stephan Bosman

The Mercury Bay Boars Rugby League & Sports Club celebrated their 10-year anniversary last weekend with a dinner on Friday evening at the Mercury Bay Bowling Club in Whitianga, a “past v present” league game on Saturday afternoon and their senior prize-giving on Saturday evening.

The brother and sister team of Wallace and Donna Cressey were instrumental in the establishment of the club. Wallace, better known as “King Joe,” moved from Auckland to Whitianga 11 years ago to be closer to Donna, who was battling a long illness. He is passionate about rugby league and was a founding member of the Mangere East Hawkes Rugby League Club in 1963.

It didn’t take long for Donna’s sons and their friends to start talking league with King Joe. That led to him, Donna and a few other local families forming the Mercury Bay Boars Rugby League Club. King Joe took on the role of president, Nickie Tane (who’s a keen league supporter, together with her husband, Aus, and their children) was the secretary and Donna assumed responsibility for fundraising and uniforms.

“Our first order of business was to decide on a name for our club,” says King Joe. “We liked both ‘Dolphins’ and ‘Boars,’ but because Boars sounded slightly more ferocious, that’s what we went with.”

In the 2009 rugby league season, two club teams - Under 10 and Under 13 - took to the field for the first time. King Joe was the Under 10 coach and locals Aus Tane, Zane Paul and Arama Campbell coached the Under 13s. Another local, Dion Bennett, became the club referee. “The two teams trained at the small park in Moewai Park Road or at the beach,” says Nickie, who’s at the moment the club president. “They travelled a lot to Auckland to play as there was no rugby league competition in the Hauraki/Coromandel area.

“King Joe would often go to Auckland to see if he could organise games for the teams. When he didn’t do that, he would go from school to school in the Hauraki area, including the Coromandel Peninsula, trying to convince the schools to put rugby league teams together so that we could start a competition of our own.

“During that time, to lift the profile of rugby league in the Hauraki area, we would also host weekend rugby league tournaments in Thames. These tournaments were very popular among the Auckland clubs. Once we’ve had 24 teams competing in a tournament.

“Whenever our teams travelled away to play, it was always a family affair. It wasn’t just the players, coaches and managers. The parents and siblings went away with them too. We were always about whanau. I’m immensely proud to say that we are still like that.”

Donna Cressey sadly passed away in April 2010, but she has never been forgotten by the Mercury Bay Boars. “Donna was an amazing lady,” says Nickie. “She was always at our club meetings and at trainings and games. She was there for everyone in the club. She genuinely represented what we stand for, which is whanau.”

In 2011, the Mercury Bay Boars were instrumental in the establishment of a rugby league competition in the Hauraki area. The first clubs to compete were the Boars, the Piako Eels, the Paeroa Tigers and the Manaia Mako. The competition has grown over the years to include clubs from Thames, Waihi, Ngatea and Tairua as well. “We’ve had more than 380 junior league players playing in the Hauraki Rugby League Competition this year, despite Waihi and Tairua not fielding any teams,” says King Joe. “The Boars fielded Under 6, Under 8, Under 10 and Under 13 teams.

“We’ve also fielded a men’s team in the Hauraki Senior Rugby League Tournament that was played over the last seven weeks of this year’s league season. It’s only the second year of the tournament and I’m stoked that we could put a team on the field in both years. I would like to see our senior rugby league players getting more game time and intend to do some work to get them playing in a Waikato competition next year.”

Since 2011, a Boars junior team has every year played in a curtain-raiser for the New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart in Auckland. It’s an arrangement that is set to continue. “To play at Mt Smart is yet another thing King Joe has achieved for us behind the scenes,” says Nickie. “We try to give this opportunity to most of our players while they’re members of our club. It’s an experience that they will carry with them forever.”

Despite the humble beginnings of the Mercury Boars, several of the club’s members were over the years selected to play for, coach and manage representative teams. Highlights included Jayden Tegg and Joe Cooke trialling for the New Zealand Warriors Under 20 team, Caleb Tane (Nickie Tane’s youngest son) trialling for the New Zealand Under 16 team and Nickie receiving the New Zealand Rugby League Female Volunteer of the Year award in 2017. Nickie has also been nominated for a Sport Waikato Administrator of the Year award this year.

“We want to create pathways our players, coaches and administrators to be the absolute best they can be,” says King Joe. “Looking at how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time, I think the hard work of everyone in our club is paying off. We have a lot to be proud of.”

The Boars changed their name in 2017 to a “rugby league & sports club” when they were joined by the informal Mercury Bay Basketball Club. “The basket ball club needed a more formal structure to be able to access funding and the like and as many our rugby league players were playing basketball as well, teaming up was the logical thing to do,” says Nickie. “The arrangement is working out very well. Three of our club’s four basketball teams made the Thames Valley secondary schools basketball competition finals this year and two teams were crowned as champions. We’re very proud of them. And it’s just awesome to see them playing in Boars uniforms!”

At the anniversary dinner on Friday evening last week, Dion Bennet was acknowledged for 10 years of refereeing for Mercury Bay Boars, Nickie was acknowledged for 10 years of outstanding volunteer service and King Joe was made the first life member of the club, an award he reluctantly accepted.

After the formalities, those present at the dinner were invited to share their thoughts. Many emotional moments followed, none so more than when Jean Waretini-Paul (a roopu teacher at Mercury Bay Area School) said this, “Years ago, when my husband and I moved from Hamilton to Whitianga, we left our whanau behind. At times things were a bit lonely up here. Then King Joe, Donna Cressey and Aus and Nickie Tane came along and they formed the Mercury Bay Boars. And suddenly we’ve had a family. This club is all about family. But that’s not all. For many people, like us, in Whitianga this club is our whanau. And its whanau we’re immensely proud of.”       

Pictured are Wallace Cressey ("king Joe") and Nickie Tane with the awards tehy received at the Mercury Bay Boars Rugby League and Sports Club anniversary dinner. 

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.