Countdown on to Steamers game

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Sideline Sid is counting down the days until the Mighty Bay of Plenty Steamers run out onto the field at the Rotorua International Stadium to kick-start their 2018 Mitre 10 Cup campaign.

Saturday week (August 18) sees "Our" team start their season chase for victory, as they aim to go one better than last season when they were beaten by Wellington in the Championship decider.

History is a great reminder of great performances that have faded away with time.

In 1976, the Bay of Plenty representative side created their own piece of past glory, when they won the inaugural NPC (National Provincial Competition) rugby championship.

Coached by Eric Anderson, the unheralded Bay boys upset the form book to take out the initial NPC title.

Graeme Moore, Greg Rowlands, John Brake, Eddie Stokes, Alan McNaughton and Dave Matuschka became household names, with Rowlands, Stokes and Brake earning All Black selection on the 1976 Argentina tour.

The Bay of Plenty band of amateur players travelled the country, with a minuscule management team of coach, manager and masseur, to grab the biggest prize in New Zealand Rugby outside the Ranfurly Shield.

All the players and management held down full time jobs, with training restricted to a couple of sessions a week during the representative season.

Professional rugby (which was introduced in 1995) has changed the landscape of our great game forever.

Today's Steamers are supported by a team management of around a dozen personnel.

Wall to wall televised rugby has gone hand in hand with the professional game, to change the way we view the game.

Mitre 10 Cup crowds are just a shadow of the thousands that would flock to game-day venues when the NPC held centre stage four decades ago.

Recently Sideline Sid read a report of a 1920 Peace Cup game, where the Thames Sub-Union representatives relieved Hamilton of the regional prize.

Several thousand spectators turned up at Steele Park in the Waikato City with a train returning the jubilant supporters back to Thames.

Television schedules now dictate the Mitre 10 Cup start times, with the Steamers schedule illustrating the changes from what was always a 2.30pm kick-off.

During the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup, the Bay of Plenty side will play five evening matches, a solitary twi-light encounter and four afternoon matches.

The good news for this dyed-in-the- wool rugby fan is that the lack of lights at the Tauranga Domain will see two weekend afternoon matches in the Western Bay of Plenty.

The first day of September will bring a rare opportunity to the watch the best provincial team in the country, when Canterbury pays a visit to the Tauranga Domain.

It would be many years since the Red and Black brigade have played at the Domain.

The Steamers match-up will showcase a myriad of super rugby players and rising stars, who should entertain and excite, what Bay Rugby will hope is a sell-out crowd.

Go The Mighty Steamers


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