The annual New Zealand Marist football tournament offers many things in a social and competitive environment but this weekend you can add one more benefit.
The Napier Marist FC-hosted two-day tourney will also become a platform for its Masters men's team players who are embarking on their maiden entry at the Pan Pacific Masters Games Gold Coast in November.
"It'll be like a holiday challenge for us," says player Chris Toomey of the host club's Masters team which has Paul Frizby at the helm as player/manager.
Toomey, the assistant head of tourism and hospitality school of the Eastern Institute of Technology, helped organise the 2004, 2011 and this year's Marist national tourneys in Napier.
The 57-year-old says most host clubs use the tourney as a fundraiser that yields about $15,000.
Seven of the country's 10 Marist-affiliated clubs have entered 36 teams in men, women and Masters grades for the kick-off from today.
More than 500 players will vie for the bragging rights as the country's champion Marist club in the code.
This is the fifth time the Napier club is hosting the tournament.
Club president Gerard Cook says it offers Marist clubs an opportunity to have an end-of-season trip to play against teams they wouldn't normally face, where they have the opportunity to have some fun and build club camaraderie. "It offers our club a point of difference because many other clubs within our region don't have something as structured as this tournament to attend," Cook says.
Since its inception in Gisborne in 1986, the tournament has also doubled as the national selection for a Marist NZ paper tournament team although previous teams were assembled following the tournament to play other national teams such as the Navy or the Army.
Napier City Rovers' assistant coach, Chris Greatholder, will select the team this weekend.
Toomey says while the clubs have a Catholic background the teams have the option of incorporating a couple of guest players.
"It's also a good way to keep in touch with how other teams are doing."
National glory aside, the solid representation in the social and masters grades means it beckons as a non-competitive event.
The Hastings Hibernian team encapsulates that spirit. Despite having one of the shortest journeys to the tournament, they are making a weekend of it, they have hired accommodation 20km from Napier.
Cook says all clubs are in good health and renowned for their hospitality but also footing it at the highest level. Auckland's Birkenhead United were Chatham Cup (NZ knockout cup) finalists last weekend.
"Here in the Central region Palmerston North Marist men's team compete at the highest level in the Central League, as do their women's team. Napier Marist field six senior teams and 28 juniors and is one of the largest clubs in Hawke's Bay."
The Napier club's premier men's team were runner-up in the second-tier Computercare Pacific Premiership. Its men's prems and div 1 teams have contributed 11 players to the Hawke's Bay United youth teams' 24-man squad.
"All of these clubs will be vying for personal and club honours in Napier this weekend," says Cook.
Toomey first played for the Rovers in 1980 but after his big OE to Australia and Europe he co-coached with Eamon Pollard the Hibernian men to the Bay premier league in the mid-1990s. He and Paul Toohey started the Marist juniors club which Kevin Murphy has grown.