For many years a national title has seemed to be out of reach for the Bay of Plenty Over 40s Men's touch team.
But this year was different. There was no elusive title. Instead, the team took hold and secured gold, going unbeaten over the three-day 2020 Bunnings National Championships at Rotorua International Stadium.
They came up against Canterbury in the final yesterday afternoon and despite the pressure of being one game away from winning their division, team manager Noelani Hudson says they went into that final match feeling relaxed.
Because they were unbeaten after days one and two, the Bay team, which includes players from Rotorua, Tauranga, Pāpāmoa, Whakatāne and Auckland, automatically qualified for the final. Canterbury had to play off for their spot earlier on Sunday.
"Our boys were pumped and ready," Noelani says.
They finished the tournament with a 10-7 win over the visitors and a feeling of relief, with Noelani saying the title win had been a long-time coming.
"It was pretty intense but they pulled through," she says.
She has been managing the team for seven or eight years, with her husband Steve as coach. Noelani says about six of the players have been with the team that whole time, with the rest being part of the team for at least three years and all have formed a strong bond.
"It's a family environment with the boys," Steve says.
After seven years coaching the over 40s men's team, Steve decided he wanted to get back on the field this year.
"He decided to give it one more crack," Noelani says.
Stevie Wall took over as coach and Hudson joined the team as a player - about three years after a hip replacement took him out of action.
Last weekend's tournament was his first time back and he was "very happy" with the results.
"It's been really emotional. I was so happy to win it."
The results didn't come without incident, though.
In game one on Friday, their winger Mark Elliot broke his ankle.
"He was gutted, Steve said.
On Saturday, Steve sprained his knee and ruled himself out of action for their final because he didn't want his injury to "put pressure on the boys".
He says watching the final from the sidelines was nerve-racking and while stoked to have won, he says there were mixed emotions.
After winning this year, Noelani expects a few of the Bay of Plenty Over 40s Men's team members to move up to the Over 45 men's division in the hope of gaining another national title in another division.
Steve, who had previously won national titles in the Over 30s and Over 35 Men's divisions, says he will "definitely" moving up, hoping to add to his collection.
Other Bay of Plenty teams to win gold include the over 45 men, over 40 women and over 27 women.
Bay of Plenty Over 40 Men's team:
1 Stevie Wall (coach), 2 Henare Tahuri (captain), 3 Murray Sturt, 4 Rodney Birch, 5 Mark Elliot, 6 Shamos Hunter, 7 Steve Toki, 8 Ben Page, 9 Ngature Te Whata, 10 Tony Wiperi-Karauria, 11 Del Cook, 12 Steve Hudson, 13 Charles Tantrum, 14 Jason Broughton, 15 Jonny Mason, 16 Ray Rua.