12th July 2021 as seen on stuff.co.nz
Manawatū’s senior club rugby league competition has been resurrected after a four-year hiatus.
The senior competition fell over in 2018 due to a lack of teams, but work behind the scenes and a decision to shift the schedule until after the rugby season has meant a six-team contest will start this weekend.
There are two new teams: the Takaro Taniwha and Feilding Stags, which has a link to players from the Feilding Old Boys-Ōroua rugby club.
Regular contenders the Kia Ora Warriors, Linton Cobras and Whanganui Boxon all return, while rugby club the Levin Wanderers, has entered a side.
Manawatū Rugby League’s Lawrence Erihe has been working since the competition stopped to get it back up and running. He said he threw it back to the clubs to start again.
“I put it back to the clubs to say if you want it you need to do it with actions. Instead of talking about it, actually do it.”
Rugby league has good junior numbers in the region and Erihe wanted to ensure there was something for players to go on to as they got older.
Previously rugby and rugby league competitions were held at the same time, but shifting rugby league to later in the year, so it didn’t clash with rugby, should allow players to play both codes.
A lack of player numbers was a problem when the senior grade was last played in 2017.
The health of rosters for this season would indicate whether rugby league in Manawatū needed to be played earlier or later.
There was no women’s competition because there had been no-one to push it, Erihe said.
He hoped to start an under-20 grade next year.
All games will this weekend be played at Coronation Park, which is the home ground for Takaro, Linton, and Kia Ora. The other sides will host games.
Erihe said the Dannevirke Tigers had intended to join the Manawatū competition, but because they won the Hawke’s Bay grade last year, they decided to defend that title. They could rejoin Manawatū in the future.
Manawatū Rugby League’s base is now at Coronation Park and no games will be played at Fitzherbert Park.
After the club season there is likely to be a rep tri-series in August between Manawatū, Taranaki and Hawke’s Bay. From there a Midcentral team will be selected to qualify for the national tournament.
Manawatū Rugby League chairman Barrie Law received a distinguished service awards at New Zealand Rugby League’s recent annual meeting, having been involved with the sport since 1985