Junior Advisory Board rugby matches only got under way in Wairarapa-Bush last Saturday but the Masterton Red Star club have already achieved a notable first.
The Rams have registered a best-ever 200 players in the junior grades, up from 182 last year and meaning an increase in teams from 12 to 13, easily the highest of any club operating in the Wairarapa-Bush union.
It's a situation not unexpected by Rams JAB president Peter Semmens, who said the club's junior membership had been growing steadily over the past five years and there was always the thought the 200 mark could be topped this season.
''It's great to have got this far, but we don't expect to stop there. There's already signs we could have another one or two teams up and running next year,'' he said.
Semmens said the growth of the Rams was mainly attributable to a hard-working committee who ensured youngsters were made welcome and enjoyed their sport.
But he also noted that with increased numbers came a greater need for equipment and therefore a recent initiative by the WBRFU's junior rugby development team _ headed by Gareth Waldron and Joe Harwood _ to present five new rugby balls to each JAB side in the region (65 to the Rams), was a major plus.
''We had budgeted $500 for practice balls this year and now we have over $1000 worth, we're absolutely thrilled with that,'' Semmens said, adding the McDonald's franchise had also assisted in this project, with local owner Matt Smith attending the presentation ceremony.
Also pleasing Semmens has been the interest shown by the Wairarapa-Bush senior rugby squad in assisting JAB teams in coaching. He said the Rams had at least six members attend a training night during the recent school holidays and the feedback from JAB players had been very positive.
''It's certainly something we will be doing again ... the kids loved it,'' he said.