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The journey has come full circle for the returning Ruapehu Senior team and their co-coach Mark Green in WRFU rugby.
Guiding the young Senior team of the mid-2010s that finally ended Kelso Hunterville's six-year championship reign, it saddened Green that after he moved up to helping manage McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu in the Premier competition, the club went through a struggle for numbers, with the Seniors becoming defunct for the 2019 season.
An attempt to bring back a second team to the club in 2020 was looking promising until Covid-19 reared its ugly head, taking away enough players that the squad stayed in recess.
However, just a few weeks before kick-off in 2021 young players started coming out of the woodwork to pull on the jersey again, or for the first time. Ruapehu is finally back to full strength, with Green joining Willie McDonnell as coaches.
"The option was there for me to drop down. Hopefully, we can get ourselves up and running again, like we used to have it," said Green.
"We've got a lot of greenhorns in there, but got a mixture with some old heads – which we need.
"We haven't got too much to offer the Prems this year, but hopefully we'll keep them playing rugby and at Ruapehu.
"Once you lose your team, it's hard to get it back."
Assisting the newcomers are players with both Premier and representative experience like prop Mac James Edmonds, halfback Andre McDonnell and first-five Jonty Curtis.
In a tough baptism, Ruapehu were well beaten in their re-debut by Utiku Old Boys 43-7 but showed signs of improvement in a 33-21 loss to Gemini Pepper Construction Kaierau.
Then, last Saturday, the young men delivered, coming from 13-0 down to Speirs Food Marton to close within a point with tries by fullback Shairone Wood and centre Rangi McLeod.
While Marton added a penalty to go outside kicking range at 16-12, Ruapehu kept the pressure on and a penalty try took them to an inaugural 19-16 win.
It will be a tougher prospect on Saturday at home when the other Rangitikei team in undefeated Harvey Round Motors Ratana brings the Stihl Shop Whanganui Challenge Shield to Rochfort Park.
May 8, 1pm kick-offs (times subject to change): Buffalos v Celtic, Spriggens Park; Kaierau v Counties, Country Club; Border v Pirates, Dallison Park; Marton v Taihape, Marton Park; Hunterville v Utiku, Hunterville; Ruapehu v Ratana, Rochfort Park.