Northlanders looking for an action-packed Queen's Birthday weekend should head down to Semenoff Stadium — venue for Northland rugby's centennial celebrations, with community involvement at the forefront.
Three back-to-back games involving men and women's teams and a chance to meet current and former players and officials are in store over two days.
"It's a big deal. To make sure we get the right exposure through Northland and to just reflect on the history of the game in Northland over the last 100 years," chairman of the organising sub-committee Phil Halse said.
Northland and All Blacks rugby legends Sid Going and Kamo Kid Ian Jones, and Black Fern Portia Woodman are among former and current players the public is likely to have a chance to mingle with and share on and off-the-field stories.
Celebrations start on Friday, June 4, with an informal mix-and-mingle session that evening.
"Talk about the good teams and the bad teams ... it's informal where the rugby public can come, it's an open session, it's going to be ticketed but our supporters get a chance to come along and meet some of the former and current players," Halse said.
The event will run from 5.30pm to 10pm and up to 400 people can be accommodated on Level 2 of the stadium.
At the same time on Level 3, there will be a display of rich rugby memorabilia for everyone to view and learn about the history of Northland rugby.
On Saturday, Halse said three exciting rugby matches would be as keenly watched by selectors as they would be by fans.
An under-20 Māori game between the North with players from Mangonui, Bay of Islands, and Hokianga and Southern Māori covering Whangārei, Northern Wairoa, and Rodney will kickstart celebrations that day.
"Queen's Birthday is a weekend generally reserved for Māori rugby so they get to have a feature game here. It's all about lifting the profile and giving these young guys a chance to play at a higher level," the former Northland flanker said.
A North versus South women's match will follow and Halse said it would be a good chance for promising players to push their chances of cracking into the Northland Kauri squad.
Woodman and other Northland-born Black Ferns may be in action.
The men's North will lock horns with a South side following the women's game and Halse hopes Northland-based contracted Super Rugby players are free to play that weekend.
He said entry fees to the games would be about $10 while prices for the other functions are still being worked through.
A formal dinner in the evening will cap off the celebrations.
Northland's Ranfurly Shield wins in the 1970s when the region produced eight to nine All Blacks was among exciting times for the province, he said, and proved its rich history.
The now-Whangārei District Councillor was part of the 1978 North Auckland side that defied all odds to stave off a strong defence from hosts and holders Manawatu to bring the shield to Northland.
"That's what we want to reflect on and how well we are positioned and continue to produce some really outstanding players in Northland. Part of the drive over recent years is to make sure we keep pace with what's happening around the country."
He said there were 58 rugby clubs in just about every town in Northland — testament to the fact sport in general has been a major driving force and that Northlanders did exceptionally well in them.