Merger key to survival

By Cameron Leslie

Two prominent Whangarei rugby clubs look set to merge ahead of the 2013 season.

Old Boys' and Marist are going through the process of amalgamating and becoming "Old Boys' Marist" and will eventually move to Pohe Island.

Old Boys have been aware of the need to move for several years as their club and grounds are on council-owned land tagged for development.

Old Boys' Rugby Club president John Harvey said the merging of the clubs would secure each club's future and strengthen their premier and reserve grade teams.

"We see it as securing the ongoing future of our club," said Harvey.

"There are only a certain number of A grade players going around, so we won't be squabbling with Marist over them.

"It's the environment we're in, with fewer players and resources going around and less people being willing, and able, to contribute to the club.

"The Pohe Island solution has been mooted by council, they see the benefit of that being done and so do we.

"It's sort of two-fold. We wanted to secure our future, location and club, [and] we had look at Boys' High but Pohe Island certainly is looking at being the hub."

Marist Club secretary Greg Shipton echoed Harvey's thoughts, crediting Marist players and supporters for being understanding towards the changes.

Shipton had held talks with players and their main concern was losing the club's rich history.

"It's more about saying 'hey here's an opportunity to secure our future'," Shipton said.

"The big thing that worries people is that we will lose our identity. [At the proposed new clubrooms] there'd be our Marist honour boards, Old Boys' boards, and then there will be our new identity. It's exciting if it comes together."

Deputy mayor Phil Halse said Marist's move away from Kensington Park would be a positive for junior rugby.

"We're really pinched for space with junior sport, [and] we've always said that Kensington is the home of junior sport," Halse said.

"If we could shift Marist off Kensington Park, it'd be a big plus. Junior rugby players need to be playing centrally and we must work to protect that."

The council are currently creating new playing and training facilities at Pohe Island where the clubs are hopeful of re-establishing as "Old Boys' Marist" along with the Northland Rugby Union at proposed new clubrooms.

Halse said if the clubs complete the merger it would be a step forward for Northland rugby as the new club had a strong residential backing for player numbers.

Discussions have been held with life, executive and selected members of both clubs relating to the amalgamation, with both clubs indicating the amalgamation would create a more positive future for them.

Northland Rugby CEO Jeremy Parkinson said they were looking forward to helping out along the way where possible. "We applaud the clubs for being proactive to secure their future. It's obviously early stages and we're keen to help where we can."

Coaching structures and playing jerseys will be looked into this week when the club's committees meet to discuss what requirements will be given to council for the merge. It is undecided where Old Boys' Marist's home ground will be next year.

- Northern Advocate

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