In the age of the 10 month rugby season, you could be excused if you’re struggling to muster enthusiasm for the professional game.
The constant diet of televised footy can make the seasons blur into one, with the predictable pattern of early promise from the Blues quickly being swamped by the cold, hard realities of Crusader and South African dominance. The fact that criminal behaviour off the field (alleged or otherwise) seems to be no barrier to players turning out in the Super 14, may just make you that little bit more cynical about the professional game.
Well, if your desire for our national game needs to be reignited, I can suggest no better place than your local North Harbour rugby club on a Saturday afternoon. There you will see footy as you always remembered it – passionately played encounters where often it’s hard to predict the winner until the final whistle.
You couldn’t have got better value for money (entry to club games is free) than the North Harbour union’s opening round of the premier club competition on March 27. Played out against a picturesque rural backdrop, ten premier teams were in action at the same ground on the same afternoon. What’s more, the sidelines boasted a who’s who of North Harbour rugby – Buck Shelford, Frano Botica, and coaches Craig Dowd and Jeff Wilson amongst others.
Certainly the various clubs laid down markers for the season with a number of interesting results. Silverdale stole a last minute win over more-fancied East Coast Bays, while last season’s champions Takapuna were taken out by Massey. Still, it’s early days and come the end of the season, Taka will be right up there.
Northcote’s win over Marist indicates they’re determined to go one better than their 2009 result of second in the competition. With a young pack built around the Mayhew – Whetton axis, this team is just going to get better and better.
Throw in the experienced guidance of ex-All Black skipper Gary Whetton and you have a side that could go all the way.
This year also marks 25 years of North Habour’s existence as a union following the 1985 breakaway from Auckland. It’s definitely something major to celebrate in our area and a big part of sporting identity north of the bridge.
Yes it would be great to see a return to Harbour’s original colours rather than last season’s black, and yes we want to see the NPC side performing better in 2010. However, those who were behind North Harbour’s launch in 1985, a number of whom who were on the sideline at Helensville (Chris Kennings, Peter Dolan) would have been quietly pleased with what we’re seeing of the club game in 2010.
So if those inconsistent Blues are driving you crazy, why not head down to the Harvey Wright field, Kaipatiki or Onewa Domain next Saturday. You might just find your love of the game flowing back.
While we’re on rugby, a reminder that applications for Venue and Team pool packs for the Rugby World Cup open on April 27.
This means you can apply for tickets for all pool matches at a chosen venue and apply for tickets for all pool matches for a chosen team. North Harbour Stadium is hosting three pool games including the South Africa V Samoa match which is bound to be a cracker.