Sports correspondant & historian
Sideline Sid was at Blake Park on Saturday and a passing conversation with a fellow rugby fan made him realise the uniqueness of Bay of Plenty rugby.
The former Wellington rugby man, who has got involved with Baywide Colts rugby, remarked that Baywide rugby was very different to what he had experienced in the capital city.
Wellington is very much a mix of big city clubs with certain sameness about them all.
He had found the diversity in the Bay between city clubs, small town sports clubs and rural rugby spread over three distinctive regions, very different to the rugby background he had come from.
Once away from the regional centres of the Western Bay, Rotorua and Whakatane - there is a very laid back approach to the game. Bay rugby formalities such as roping of grounds, filling in team sheets and adhering to the code of conduct often seem of secondary importance, to the after match hospitality and general socialising on the day.
With boundaries that stretch from Reporoa to Te Kaha and all the way through to northern extremity of the Bay in Katikati – Bay of Plenty rugby is extremely varied and different.
The Blake Park conversation got me thinking about Western Bay rugby and the different make-ups of the thirteen clubs in the region. We have the same mix of city, small town and rural clubs that are Bay of Plenty rugby.
The local Western Bay competition is a snapshot of the diversity in local rugby. The four teams going off to the Baywide playoffs this weekend and the Phelan Cup semi-finalists, represent the various differences and cultural backgrounds of Western Bay rugby.
Katikati and Arataki that are to engage in the Division Two playoffs come from different spectrums. T
he Katikati club ranks amongst the oldest in the country having celebrated its 125th Jubilee in recent years. While the club has had some up and down times, including periods of recess, the current standing of the club in Katikati reflects a vibrant local economy.
Arataki was born in the early 1970’s when Mount Maunganui underwent a population explosion. What was originally a small beachside community, grew so quickly that the town could easily support two clubs.
Based at Grenada Park in Arataki it has had a rollercoaster ride in the last decade, from being a Baywide second echelon force, back to playing just local rugby.
Blake Park has always been the home of the Mount Maunganui club, with the club’s second fifteen joining Tauranga Sports, in the search for Baywide Senior Reserve silverware in 2012.
The Tauranga Sports organisation reflects the new face of the game in New Zealand, with Otumoetai Cadets and Tauranga Old Boys joining together over twenty years ago, to form a sports club that caters for a variety of different sports.
The four Phelan Cup semi-finalists, also bring different backgrounds to the fields of play this weekend.
Papamoa who headed the Phelan Cup qualifying standings was the last Western Bay club to become affiliated to Bay Rugby, while Te Puna, who are their weekend opponents is built upon local and family loyalty.
Rangiuru are over 100-years-old, while their opponents Matakana Island are completely unique in New Zealand, with visiting teams travelling by barge to engage on the Island with the home side.
Seeya at the Game.