Sports correspondant & historian
Local club rugby is alive and well in the Western Bay of Plenty courtesy of the Western Bay of Plenty Rugby Football Sub-Union.
While seven Western Bay senior teams participate in the Baywide twenty team two-tier competitions - there are 14 sides that play in the Western Bay Championship. When Inter-City (followed by the present Baywide competitions) rugby was introduced a couple of decades ago, the doom merchants predicted the death of local senior rugby.
A rejig of the Baywide competitions a couple of years ago, launched a rapid growth in the number of teams and intensity of competition in the Western Bay competitions. The origins of the present Western Bay competition were the Senior Reserve competition, which was often viewed of producing little in the way of useful competitive rugby.
However, the Baywide review, where the competition numbers were cut from 24 to 20 teams, resulted in several Western Bay teams returning to local competition. The current local contests are a mixture of senior second teams and clubs that have Baywide aspirations.
The clubs with second fifteens, who provide backup to their Baywide premier contenders are Mount Maunganui, Greerton Marist, Rangataua, Rangiuru, Te Puna, Te Puke Sports and Mount Maunganui.
Standing alone with aspirations of progressing to Baywide rugby via promotion/relegation are Eastern Districts, Matakana Island, Judea, Katikati and Papamoa along with the two Arataki sides.
The Western Bay Sub-Union, that administers local rugby along with providing an umbrella for JMC (Junior Management Committee), is an amalgamation of the old Tauranga and Te Puke sub-Unions that date back nearly one hundred years. Rugby in the region can be traced back to the 1890’s, with the Tauranga Rugby Union being established in 1915.
Up until the 1960’s, Rugby Sub-Unions drove the game in the country, with every Union in the country having a number of Sub-Unions that ran local rugby. An example of the strength minor associations was that in the 1950’s and 60’s there were up to twenty sub-unions alive and well in the Peace Cup competition.
The Peace Cup, was the symbol of sub-union superiority in the South Auckland region, that stretched from Pukekohe to Taupo. Peace Cup sub-unions have all but died except in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato.
An example of the death of the sub-unions is provided in Thames Valley where the Thames, Paeroa, Hauraki Plains and Te Aroha sub-unions are just memories of the past.
While the Peace Cup effectively died from lack of teams, a new competition has risen from the ashes. The Stan Meads Cup that pays tribute to one of the great players in All Black rugby, was tried last season with such success that it is to be expanded this year.
The prime movers in the Stan Meads Cup were the Thames Valley and King Country Rugby Unions. Sick of being hammered in Northern Region Development rugby by the likes of Auckland and Waikato, the two Unions put forward the concept of combining with the remaining mid North Island sub-union sides.
Last year the Thames Valley and King Country second fifteens joined Te Awamutu, Hamilton and Central (Rotorua) sub-unions to fight out the inaugural Stan Meads trophy. This year Eastern and Western Bay of Plenty representative teams, along with a regional Waikato side will join the competition.
In order to keep the Peace Cup history alive the time-honoured rugby silverware has been allocated as a challenge trophy within the Stan Meads Cup contests.
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