The Hawke's Bay Rugby Union's cash reserves could hit $1 million for the first time as a result of a bumper Ranfurly Shield season.
The Magpies go into a second season with the Log o' Wood after a shield-saving 20-all draw on Saturday night at McLean Park, Napier.
The hope comes with projections based on last year's annual report in which board finance director Kevin Atkinson revealed the union's equity had passed $770,000, a $100,000 profit on the one 2013 Ranfurly Shield defence against Counties-Manukau having singly carried the union to an annual surplus of just over $90,000.
Mr Atkinson, currently overseas, had said the 2013 surplus could have been as high as $500,000 had the shield been retained through to the end of the season, as has happened with the second-chance the Hawke's Bay Magpies have taken since winning the shield back off Counties-Manukau on August 30.
Union commercial and marketing manager Jay Campbell said yesterday the crowd for the 2013 defence was about 14,500, but none of this year's defences against Otago, Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Saturday's draw had exceeded 12,000.
Extra costs had been incurred through hiring the temporary seating which was installed on the ground's embankment at New Zealand Rugby Union cost for the test match, about half of which remains in place.
"It's not quite the cash-cow everyone expects," he said. "Some people probably think we've made one or even two million. It's nowhere near that much, but we are certainly happy."
Chairman Brendan Mahony said the union could expect more than the "little surplus" for which it had budgeted, but while a board meeting wasscheduled for the last week of the month details of the real position weren't expect to emerge until its meeting next month.
"Its been a great thing for the province," he said. "The objective was to win the Championship, which the team is still trying to achieve, so the shield was a bonus. Certainly a great bonus, and it's good to have it locked-away for next season."
Hawke's Bay is expecting to schedule at least seven shield defences next year, including five home ITM Cup matches. The winners of the two Heartland Championship finals will also be offered the opportunity to challenge.
Mr Mahony said it would be "nice" to be offer challenges to neighbours Poverty Bay and Wairarapa-Bush which had been long-time annual opposition prior to the professional rugby era, but there were issues over whether players would be available and when such matches could be played.
The winning and retaining of the shield has been a godsend to the Napier City Council as it moves to step up big-game use of the century-old McLean Park, which it regards as Hawke's Bay's No 1 sports arena.
It was kick-started on September 6 when more than 22,000 were at the park for the All Blacks' first rugby test in Napier since 1996, the numbers have been ticking-over ever since, and about 10,000 are expected for a Magpies ITM Cup championship semifinal against Northland on Friday.
McLean Park is the venue for three 2015 one-day cricket World Cup matches in March, but the biggie on the horizon is a possible NRL rugby league competition match Hawke's Bay Today understands will involve at least one top Australian side early next winter, with a likely influx of team supporters crossing the Tasman.
Council CEO Wayne Jack was yesterday still unable to divulge details.
But he said the exposure McLean Park had had over the last five weeks had "helped" particularly with the negotiations, saying that "normally" parties negotiating such a game might expect a host to trial-run with a non-competition, pre-season match first.
There are also understood to be still slim possibilities McLean Park will stage a Super 15 rugby match, while Mr Jack said other possibilities for use of the park are "always in the pipeline."
Sport Hawke's Bay chairman Damon Harvey said he'd like to see some estimate of the economic impact to the region of rugby's big month, but that most of the crowds are from the region.
"There is a lot of regional pride," he said.
"We all love winners and success and the Magpies holding the Shield provides all other sport codes with a role model to look up to. It's inspirational stuff, and the way they are winning shows that they are determined and proud to wear black n' white."
"They say success breeds success and we can now look forward to our other sport clubs and representative teams also winning. We're lucky in Hawke's Bay that we seem to punch above our weight in sport - you only have to look at the Hawks basketball side, HB United and many of our elite individual athletes."
The Hawke's Bay union's revenue for the year is expected to soar well over last year's $4.27 million, but the costs extend well past the huge budget for Magpies professionals and staff, with the Magpies just one of 10 squads fielded by the union this year.
But wait ... there's more
The Ranfurly Shield defence on Saturday wasn't the last big rugby match at McLean Park in Napier this season. The Hawke's Bay Magpies will play Northland Taniwha in an ITM Cup championship semifinal on Friday, starting at 7.35pm. If the Magpies win and playoffs top-seed Manawatu Turbos are beaten in their semifinal, the final would also be played at McLean Park, during Labour Weekend. Preferential booking for Friday night's match opens today and sales to the general public open on Wednesday.By Doug Laing