Behind the scenes of Mitre 10 Rugby

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Mitre 10 Rugby has received plenty of attention on Sideline Sid's Sky Sport viewing, in his countdown to chasing the live action on the local cricket scene which kicks off on Labour weekend.

One team that has slipped under the temporary couch-potatoes radar has been current premiership titleholders Tasman, who provide an outstanding example of how amalgamation brought gold plated rewards for two smaller provincial unions.

Last weekend, Side watched the Tasman Mako's lay down the gauntlet to the other 2020 Mitre 10 Cup Premiership contenders with a dominant performance, when they overpowered the Mooloo men from the Waikato.

Sideline Sid believes that there are too many rugby unions in the country and that the dreaded A word (amalgamation) could be the solution to a number of current unions, who struggle with player numbers and finances to remain competitive.

It doesn't make sense to this writer that Unions such as East Coast and Poverty Bay, who share a joint border and labour with few resources, to each put a representative team on the field every season.

Some 15 years ago when the Air New Zealand Cup was established, the then struggling Nelson Bays and Marlborough Rugby Unions came together to form one organisation and went on to grab a spot in the 14 team NPC competition.

The newly created Tasman Union progress was initially slow with just two wins in each of their first two seasons.

The elimination axe was poised to strike in 2008, but a much improved season showing saw them make the quarter-finals.

The turn-around in form in 2008 became a launch pad for eventual title success.

The 2013 season brought promotion to the premiership division, after defeating Hawke's Bay in the championship title decider.

The fully fledged member of the Crusaders Super Rugby franchise, benefitted greatly from the support provided within the Super Rugby alliance to go on to become a real force in the top echelon of the National Provincial Championship.

Four finals and two top four finishes in six years, was the entree to the 2019 Mitre 10 Cup Premiership crown after defeating Wellington 31-14 in the title decider.

However, an amalgamation isn’t always wine and roses, as was shown by the Central Vikings formation during the late 1990's.

Formed from a merger of the Hawke's Bay and Manawatu Rugby Unions, the Central Vikings, while successful on the field of play in winning the 1998 NPC Division Two championship, fell to pieces in the boardroom.

Disharmony between the Hawke's Bay and Manawatu factions off the field, resulted in the partnership being dissolved after just two seasons.

Closer to home, it has been suggested that Bay of Plenty Rugby has too many one-team rugby clubs who would benefit from amalgamation.

As the Tasman Rugby Union shows, amalgamation can bring benefits such as competitiveness and financial security, however, any mergers need to be proceeded by plenty of logical thinking and strategic planning for the future.


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