Tamatea premier club rugby coach Levi Armstrong is the first to admit having Mongrel Mob members among his players hasn't gone down well with some club stalwarts.
But Armstrong believes his critics should get behind the team and support what he is trying to achieve.
"I've been reading in the papers about the problems Mongrel Mob members are causing up Te Mata Peak. I'm offering a solution to some of these problems ... trying to get Mob members away from smoking and drugs and into sport, a better lifestyle," Armstrong said.
"That will only happen if we get more support for the coach and the team. When I took on the job this season I thought there would be more support. But I understand this has been happening for a while.
"It's hard for our players to believe in themelves week in week out when no one believes in them. There are no other senior teams for Tamatea, only a few people on the club committee, no clubrooms, it's quite sad to see.
"If people want to see Tamatea survive they need to put their taiaha down and come together and fight together. We need to fight the fight off the field if we are going to win the battle on the field," Armstrong said.
"I'm sick of seeing our boys at the bottom of the points table."
Last weekend's 66-0 loss to Hastings Rugby and Sports in a second round Maddison Trophy fixture on home turf at Bill Mathewson Park was Tamatea's biggest hiding this season. They have recorded 10 losses and a draw to date.
But Armstrong, 32, who tasted Maddison Trophy glory on four occasions during a 132-game career with Havelock North over 10 years, has no intention of leaving.
"I never give up unless I am pushed. I see this coaching assignment as a three-year plan. Obviously we need to do some recruiting and if we get our waka in order the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union might be more receptive to allocating some of the province's imports to us."
It was never going to be easy for Armstrong, a son of Mongrel Mob life member and long-time Tamatea supporter Johnny Armstrong, with Tamatea this season. Among the players to leave Tamatea at the start of the season were New Zealand under-20s captain and hooker Kianu Kereru-Symes, experienced lock-loosie Everard Reid, veteran inside back Colin Hokianga, midfield back Mataeus Marsh and winger Roger Paewai, all to MAC, and Saracens outside back Ash Robinson to Hastings Rugby and Sports.
"We lost some quality players and since the start of our season I've seen our number of supporters decline. There's also been a lot of negativity towards referees and touch judges. It's time for that to change and it's time to bring everyone back together. It would be good to see a good turnout when we take on Clive on their club day at Farndon Park on Saturday," Armstrong said.
"When I helped the Bay Bulldogs rugby league team win Hawke's Bay's reserve grade title last year I considered it a stepping stone to this job. These coaching jobs are a bit like my job with the Patu Gym. It's all about helping whanau and people have more healthy lifestyles and making the most of their opportunities."
Armstrong hopes players from other clubs looking for more game time might be keen to help his side out.
"I like to help other clubs out when I can. At the moment I'm helping Aaron Hamilton coach my son's 11th grade team at Taradale. I've got a foot in a few clubs," Armstrong added.
Tamatea Rugby and Sports Club chairman Don Hutana said he supported Armstrong's call for more support and he had no qualms with Mob members playing for the team.
"I've been involved with the club since 1964 and it has always had an open door policy. Many of the Mob whakapapa to Tamatea. Some of the carvings in the clubrooms portray our Nga Hau E Wha philosophy ... we welcome players from the Four Winds. In my role as team kaumatua I have noticed the Mob boys are very respectful towards me."
Hutana understood Armstrong's concern about the team not having access to the Waipatu Marae-based clubrooms.
"The clubrooms haven't been condemned as some people are saying. There are just a few minor issues which need to be addressed and then they can be opened again.
"I have been asked why the junior section of our club is so strong and why many of those players move on to other clubs once they leave the junior ranks. I know we have to look at ourselves internally and get our act together. We can't offer what a lot of the other clubs can and I have to ask the question ... has club rugby become a rich man's game?"