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The East Coasters celebrate a premier rugby win over Renwick last season. Despite their catchment area being disrupted by the November 14 earthquake, they will be back in harness this year.
There will be an East Coast team in Marlborough premier rugby ranks in 2017.
The Coasters, a combination of players from both Awatere and Kaikoura clubs, completed their first stint in top-level club rugby last year, showing plenty of promise and making bold plans for a go-ahead season in 2017.
Those plans were thrown into disarray on November 14 when the quickest route between the two clubs, State Highway One, was widely damaged by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
With the main road being closed for the forseeable future, doubts immediately arose over the future of the East Coast concept. However, Awatere Rugby Club spokesman Andrew Lawson, a member of the initial East Coast steering committee, said, “it is 100 percent all happening this year, there is no question about that”.
“There are some varying reports on when the road will be open … but it is likely to be after the season starts, so Kaikoura will have to decide what they are going to do.
“It is a shame. We were hoping to get five or six Kaikoura players but we will have a side regardless, and it will still be called East Coast.
“We won’t be just dropping [the East Coast concept] for a year and running as Awatere. It will just be for this year, next year we will be back to normal,” he added.
Members of the Awatere rugby community have offered work and accommodation for any Kaikoura players who were able to move north for the rugby season and Lawson said those offers still stood.
He said Awatere were also hopeful of fielding a division two side this season. The East Coast side will again be coached by Steve Crockett with Simon Muir as manager.
Kaikoura Rugby Club spokesman Dean Hamilton, another member of the steering committee, has joined Lawson and Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Tony Lewis in talks regarding their immediate future. The Cray Coasters plan to field a division two team and junior teams in 2017.
An option for Kaikoura is to play in the North Canterbury competition for the season, a scenario their southern neighbours are pleased to accommodate, but Hamilton said Tasman did not want them to head south if we didn’t have to.
He said that given uncertainty over the length of the road closure, his club had not come to any solid conclusions yet.
“We can’t just sit and wait and hope that the road will open. We will have a committee meeting soon and make those decisions, regarding our senior team and the JAB [Junior Advisory Board] teams. It is just about getting on and trying to guarantee we have some rugby.
“Obviously [Tasman] were concerned about the East Coast scenario, but [Awatere] are boxing on as per normal, although they will certainly miss the Kaikoura players that would have been involved.”
Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Tony Lewis said it was “imperative” that the East Coast concept survived despite the hurdles in its path this year.
“There were lots of positives over what happened last year [with East Coast], we have just to make sure we keep that focus on everything.”
He said he had urged the Kaikoura club not to rush into a decision, suggesting there were lots of options to mull over, including the possibility of Kaikoura playing round one in North Canterbury then rejoining the Marlborough competition at a later stage when the road opens.
“Everyone wants to see East Coast carry on. We will do everything we can to make sure it happens,” added Lewis.
“We don’t want something to fall down that has worked well.”
Hurunui under-16 team mates Matt Getz, left, and Adam Ford celebrate their team’s convincing win against Oxford to secure the North Canterbury title.
At the end of the 2016 club rugby season two Kaikoura-based players had their workload increased.
Matt Getz and Adam Ford, both 16, have been playing for the Hurunui under-16s in the North Canterbury competition as there was no team in Kaikoura for them to play in.
Deciding it was worth the extra effort to continue the sport they love, they committed to travelling to Culverden rather than have nowhere to play.
For fullback/centre Adam this was his first season with Hurunui, while flanker/number 8 Matt was enjoying his second season at the club after playing with the under-18 team last season.
They are now celebrating the team’s very convincing 53-0 win over Oxford in the league final, played last weekend, with two of Hurunui’s tries scored by Adam.
This was not the only convincing win of the season – in fact in the second half of the year Hurunui only had one try scored against them.
While Matt and Adam were excused from much of the weekly training, being too far to travel to Culverden, the pair have fitted in well and have made themselves known as valuable members of the team during weekend fixtures.
So much so that they were picked for the North Canterbury rep team, and from there they have both been selected for the Canterbury Country rep team.
This means they will have to drop playing in the North Canterbury team for now, but it is a fantastic opportunity which will give them playing experience against other regional rep teams including Marlborough, Nelson and Otago.
Their next big tournament will be playing for Canterbury Country at the South Island under-16 tournament in Christchurch during the school holidays
While it has been a huge commitment from both the boys and their families, who take them to the games each weekend, they say they would not have had the chance to be seen by the selectors had they not made the effort.
Marlborough’s East Coast rugby clubs join forces for premier tilt in 2016
There will be a new kid on the block when Marlborough premier club rugby recommences in early 2016.
A trail-blazing team named East Coast will join Moutere, Harlequins, Renwick, Waitohi and Central in the top echelon, playing in the Marlborough competition as well as the Tasman Trophy.
The Coasters’ participation has come about through the combined efforts of the Awatere and Kaikoura clubs, who both fielded division two teams in 2015. The new premier side will be formed predominantly by players from the two clubs.
At the conclusion of the past season, representatives from both the Tussock Jumpers and Cray Coasters got together to formulate a plan which would enable their better players to participate in premier rugby. Recognising that neither side was strong enough to go it alone they decided to combine forces and applied to the Tasman Rugby Union for entry to premier ranks.
After a lengthy process, involving scrutiny of both clubs’ books, playing resources and plans for coaching and future financing, an East Coast premier team was given the green light. TRU chief executive Tony Lewis suggested his organisation were in the business of fostering rugby and, following due diligence, were happy to rubber stamp the new team’s participation.
“We asked both groups to complete a business plan, looking at the financials … the rationale was that the two clubs have done everything they possibly can to be competitive. It fits with our criteria of growing the game and putting on meaningful competitions, so it would be remiss of us not to give them that opportunity.
The new East Coast side will wear a playing kit similar to that worn by the Romanian Rugby World Cup 2015 side.