Rugby: Porangahau pull pin, but only for this year

By Shane Hurndell

Former Junior All Black Robbie Hunter having to put on the boots and complete an entire season at the age of 60 last year was an indication.

The Porangahau senior rugby team was getting desperate for players as it battled in Hawke's Bay's division two club rugby competition.

Those desperation levels won't be tolerated this season ... Porangahau has withdrawn from the competition.

"It was a tough decision to make as there is a lot of history associated with the club. Blokes like Robbie [Hunter] and our president Gavin Cook have both played well over 100 games for the team," captain Peter Hobson said.

He pointed out the side had 12 reliable regulars turning out for trainings and pre-season games this year. Porangahau played just one competition game before the decision to withdraw was made.

It was a game against Taradale in the Town and Country Pratt Trophy competition and Hobson said they had to borrow a frontrower but when they collected a couple of injuries it was the last straw.

"For safety reasons and the reputation of the club we decided it was the best decision. We're not the sort of club which likes to throw a team together," Hobson said.

A decreasing number of shepherds on stations surrounding Porangahau was a major contributing factor. Hobson said he runs a 1000 acre station but doesn't employ a shepherd.

The Porangahau Station used to employ five shepherds and now employs one.

"There used to be 14 shearing gangs based in the district. There is now one-and-half because a lot of the farms use outside gangs.

"There are a few seasonal workers who come into the district but they are only here for April and May," Hobson said.

Hobson, 38, is confident there will be enough players to enable Porangahau to rejoin the competition next year.

He intends to play for another couple of seasons to help keep the team going.

"Several of our players have gone to other clubs this year but they will be back next year," he added.

Hunter, who played every position in the backline last year, was sad to see the team withdrawn.

"It's my Holy Grail. Playing for the team is like being at my second home. But we just haven't got the population down here we once had."

A veteran of 125 first-class games for the Magpies from 1971-1982, Hunter pointed out if the country's economy improved and more people were able to be employed on the farms around Porangahau, the team would benefit.

However, he was confident the White Domain-based team will be back next year.

And will he take the field at the age of 62?

"If it means the team will keep going, I probably will," he replied.

While the club's flagship team won't be in action this season, it will be business as usual for the club's school age rugby teams as well as its hockey and netball teams.

Cook stressed that the club was still in a healthy position - both financially and supporter-wise.

Hawke's Bay Rugby Union's club competition manager Gary Macdonald said it was sad to see Porangahau withdrawn.

"Traditionally Porangahau is one of four strong country clubs and it's never good to see a team pull out ... fortunately it's only temporary," Macdonald said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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