By John McKenzie
The Rugby mad members and supporters of Mercury Bay rugby and Thames Valley supporters are eagerly counting down the days to Saturday, 24 September, when the town hosts its very first, First class match – a Heartland cup match verses North Otago. There will also be a curtain raiser between the Northland U18’s versus Thames Valley U18’s.
Stalwart club captain, Mike Skeen, explains that the seeds of the game was started last season, when another ex-local rugby identity and former Swamp Fox player, Sean Muir, was on a Swamp Fox Rugby trip to Ruatoria to watch his son Cody play for the Swamp Foxes against Ngati Porou East Coast. (Incidentally, to have a father and son duo both play for the Swamp Foxes is a very rare occasion, certainly a first from the Mercury Bay Rugby Club). Sean managed to convince the Thames Valley Rugby Executive members to consider a game that could be played in Whitianga next season. This is when it all gained rapid momentum, with a core group of local Rugby Club stalwarts putting together an attractive proposal to the Union board members, to host a successful rugby occasion in our town. Fast forward,- the Union board gave the go ahead for this Historic rugby clash to happen in little over two weeks time.
Club President, Eric Gaskell, told the Informer that regular club games attract crowds of 300 to 400 spectators to Lyon Park for their home fixtures, and he is quietly confident that there will be at least triple that amount of attendees at the Moewai Park ground for the match. With that amount of people in town, the benefits this brings to our businesses will be most welcome. For instance, the two teams will be catered for at the Mercury Bay Gamefish Club and the Mercury Bay Cossie Club. On game day, there will be food stalls run by the local Motocross Club, a Coffee Cart, Ice Cream Vendor, and the Whitianga Fire Brigade will be selling their famous Mussel Fritters. There will be a fully licensed bar area overlooking the field, numerous marquees and the club will erect a mini grandstand for everyone to enjoy the match in relative comfort. If there are any other community groups who would like to participate in some way on the day, the Rugby club would be interested to hear from you.
Eric also recalls the super successful ten aside rugby and netball tournaments the Rugby club hosted back in the 1980s and early 90s. Hundreds of participants would congregate in town for the weekend. Top line clubs like Manurewa, Te Kauwhata, Otahuhu, Pakuranga, Orewa, the Maori Wanderers and Tokoroa, all fielding very strong sides with even the odd All Black and Silver Fern making rare appearances for their club sides.
Chairman, Wayne Smith, would like to acknowledge the TCDC for its vision and foresight in the development of the Moewai Sports Park. Its top class facilities were a major factor in the decision to award the game to the town. He also thanks all the local businesses who have contributed so far. The call went out after the last club game that it is to be all ‘club hands on deck’ to ensure the day is a huge success. So the club would love to host all rugby enthusiasts to Moewai Park,Whitianga to be a part of rugby history, Saturday 24 September, kick off at 2pm.
Curtain-raiser 12.15pm (TBC). There will a small admission charge.
Caption : Merv George greets local father and son, Maurice and Sean Muir, rugby heroes.