Greerton Marist won't win this year's Baywide club rugby championship but they've won respect in their first full season in the top flight.
For foundation member and club captain Steve Pearson, that's as good as gold-plated and encrusted in diamonds.
With two rounds to go, Greerton are eighth on 20 points and face an eye-wateringly good local derby against ninth-placed Rangataua tomorrow. Last week's 53-8 trouncing of Waikite meant Greerton will stay up next season, with the Rotorua team destined for relegation.
"Winning the Baywide was never the be-all and end-all for all those who've followed Greerton all these years - we just wanted to get up there into that top division and be competitive," mused Pearson, who rolled up at the new club as a junior in 1961 and is still there 51 years on. "It's been a dream for all of us and we've been waiting a long, long time but we've finally seen it done this year. I'm just so proud and it's like a dream come true."
Foundation members like Pearson, former mayor Noel Pope and stalwart Chris Widdis have seen their club live an enigmatic existence on the local scene; a powerful force at JMC level but fickle in the senior ranks. Greerton collected two Tauranga championships in the 1970s but haven't had provincial representatives since Milton Haig, Mike Howe and Glen Remnant played for Bay of Plenty in 1995.
This year under coach Kane Parker and assistant Ben Skudder, however, they've posted two big wins over Waikite, upset Opotiki in a thriller and drawn with semifinal contenders Te Puna.
And they could still collect some silverware for their efforts if they can knock over Rangataua tomorrow, after the Maungatapu club snatched the Jordan Cup - the Western Bay challenge trophy - from the claw-like grasp of Tauranga Sports last week.
"Both Greerton and Rangataua look like they've survived for next season so tomorrow's match will be all about pride, plus we'd love to get our hands on that trophy - it's been a long time," Pearson explained.
Greerton president Terry Meredith knows only too well the depth of feeling between the two clubs. The former first-five played six senior seasons with Rangataua, before rejoining his home club to see out his playing career in the 1980s.
He's been president at Greerton for the last eight years and is immensely satisfied with their performance on the park this year.
"We had a big year last year with our 50th jubilee and winning promotion into the top ranks but in a sense, the job was only half done," Meredith said. "We still had to prove that we belonged up there."
With the Greerton Colts and Senior B sides also having vintage seasons, there's likely to be something of a festive air around Greerton Park tomorrow.
Other penultimate round premier matches see Opotiki, Rotoiti and Te Puna desperately chasing the last two semifinal spots, although Whakarewarewa and Mount Maunganui both have mathematical chances.
Front-runners and defending Baywide champs Te Puke can extinguish Whakarewarewa's faint chances at home, while second-placed Tauranga Sports can also severely dent Rotoiti hopes at the Tauranga Domain.
Opotiki take their Eastern Bay grit on the road to Mount Maunganui, while Te Puna have a serious chance of valuable points, away to Waikite.
Premier points: Te Puke Sports 70, Tauranga Sports 61, Opotiki 49, Rotoiti 49, Te Puna 48, Whakarewarewa 42, Mount Maunganui 39, Greerton Marist 20, Rangataua 18, Waikite 8.
PGG Wrightson Baywide games tomorrow:
Premier (2.45pm): Tauranga Sports v Rotoiti, Tauranga Domain; Mount Maunganui v Opotiki, Blake Park; Waikite v Te Puna, Bellvue Road; Greerton Marist v Rangataua, Greerton Park; Te Puke Sports v Whakarewarewa, Murray Salt Stadium.
Division one (2.45pm): Kahukura v Ruatoki, Kuirau Park; Rangiuru v Ngongotaha, Centennial Park; Whakatane Marist v Reporoa, Rugby Park; Te Teko v Marist St Michaels, Dunderdale Park; Poroporo v Paroa, Poroporo Park.
Points: Rangiuru 73, Paroa 66, Kahukura 51, Ngongotaha 48, Te Teko 47, Whakatane Marist 43, Marist St Michaels 34, Poroporo 27, Reporoa 9, Ruatoki 7.
Colts (1pm): Section one: Mount Maunganui v Marist St Michaels, Blake Park; Tauranga Sports v Te Puna, Tauranga Domain; Te Puke Sports v Greerton Marist, Murray Salt Stadium. Points: Tauranga Sports 12, Te Puna 9, Mount Maunganui 8, Greerton Marist 6, Te Puke Sports 5, Marist St Michaels 0.
Section Two: Opotiki v Ruatoki, Princess Street Reserve; Kahukura v Waikite, Kuirau Park; Rotoiti v Whakarewarewa, Emery Park; Rangataua bye. Points: Rangataua 12, Kahukura 10, Ruatoki 9, Whakarewarewa 4. Pool B: Waikite 14, Opotiki 10, Rotoiti 0.