Clubs merge to save game

Coastline District Rugby League chairman Stan Nicholas confirms what has been a tough decision to merge senior clubs for entry into the Waiariki competition.

Coastline District Rugby League has made the tough decision to merge three of its local clubs in order to front a senior team for the Waiariki Competition and to keep the game alive in Tauranga.

To make the numbers for the Waiariki Competition, starting next month, players from the Otumoetai Eels, Tauranga Whalers and Papamoa Bulldogs will band together in one team to represent our coast.

Founded in 1991, the CDRL is a far cry from what it was in the early-1990s when it was made up of more than 20 clubs.

Today just eight clubs make up the CDRL, where they have “struggled to keep their feet on the ground” during the past two years, says CDRL chairman Stan Nicholas.

It’s not just the Covid factor to blame for the dwindling numbers of senior players, but a longer history of rugby league being side-lined by rugby union.

As the “poor cousin” to rugby union, which is constantly in the limelight, “it’s hard to attract good players because all they see is the All Blacks,” says Stan.
“They want to be an All Black, to be a Bay of Plenty Steamer, to be a Chief.”

Gaining support for the senior teams, of players aged 18 years-plus, starts with younger players – but unfortunately despite years of effort, Stan cannot get rugby league into local schools.

“You try get in colleges but they always have this negativity towards our game,” says Stan.
“It’s ridiculous because there’s so many kids that do want to play the game, but it’s being restricted.

 “[Young players] all want to play with their friends and all their friends want to be first XV rugby players,” says Stan.
“So they go and play rugby because their mates are playing that and league isn’t available to them.”

Stan understands that rugby union is New Zealand’s national game so isn’t “going to rock the boat too much”.
“As long as we can keep offering that opportunity to those that miss out on rugby [union] or who just want to have a go at playing an alternative sport, then that’s what we’re here for.”

Stan says CDRL is proud to have produced many notable players including Bodene Thompson (Warriors), Briton Nikora (Cronulla Sharks), the famous Benji Marshall (West Tigers) and Patrick Herbert (Gold Coast Titans).

Moreover, he’s optimistic CDRL will rise again to be a recognised force. “E waka eke noa tatau – we are all in this together.”

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