An idea hatched last year to grow the game of rugby league in the Bay of Plenty has led to the formation of new Bethlehem-based club Hangarau Storm.

Peter Bidois and Scotty Bishop decided that the Bay of Plenty's Coastline rugby league competition needed another club.

''We had a vision and thought, why not run with it?''

Together they started a club centred on Ngati Hangarau's sports grounds near the marae on Bethlehem Rd.


''We have set the foundations this season. We have our strips (jerseys), we have applied for funding - it's all go.''

Yesterday's opening of the Coastline competition saw the Storm front up with six teams, five in the children's age-group grades and one under-17 team.

Bidois, who played rugby until getting a passion for league living in Australia, said his main driver was to grow league and set up another club on the western side of Tauranga because the Otumoetai Eels had a big catchment.

He saw adding league to Hangarau's long-established rugby tradition as a way of adding life to the marae-based Bethlehem Sports Club and bringing kids back to the club.

Bidois' other big motivation was his footie-mad son Ethan, 7, who was diagnosed with leukaemia in March and was undergoing treatment at Starship children's hospital.

''How is he getting on? He is a champion. Leukaemia is curable - it is a long journey but he will get there.''

The leukaemia meant Ethan would not be able to play league again for three years.

''I'll see it through because of him. I am doing it for him, for the hapu, the iwi and all our families."


Bidois and wife Erana have two other children, aged 9 and 4.

He said it was a small community around the marae but a lot of whanau in the Bay had ties back to Hangarau. Three-quarters of their registered players had links to the hapu.

The club's strong family orientation meant that when the word went out that a club was being set up, people put their hands up to help, offering to take teams or do whatever had to be done.

''At this stage, it is going quite sweet.''

Bidois said they were lucky to have got so much support because one of the reasons league was struggling against rugby in the Bay was trying to attract volunteers.

He said the club's starting focus was on junior players, leading to the day when the Storm entered a premier team in the Coastline competition. ''That's our plan.''

Hangarau Storm had been careful not to brand itself as a one-sport club because it was also looking at netball and softball.

Bidois' involvement with league in Australia meant he was aware that NRL clubs were always scouting for players in New Zealand, and the pathway to the professional game was easier than rugby.

He said Scotty Bishop had a lot of knowledge about the game and league's administration to the Upper Central Zone that encompassed Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne.