Rugby league in Nelson appears to be on its knees but the sport’s new chairwoman is confident the code can get back to its feet.
The senior club competition kicked off on Saturday, with only three teams competing, Victory Phoenix Vikings, Wairau Taniwha and Motueka Tigers.
The two teams which competed in last season’s grand final, Richmond Rabbits and Wanderers Wolves are both missing from this year’s competition.
New Tasman Rugby League chairwoman Leanne Anderson says she wants to make positive changes but admits it’s a tough start.
“My vision is to make league great in the region and there are some challenges around that.
“We are very disappointed our finalists have had to pull out but we do hope to see them back in action next year, and on a bright note we have picked up Motueka who re-enter for the first time since 2011.”
She says the West Coast competition are down to two teams this year, so this isn’t just a Tasman issue, “it’s nation-wide.”
Leanne will meet with West Coast Rugby League in Greymouth this week to look at starting a combined competition.
She says the board is also in the process of appointing a new rugby league development officer and are looking to expand the school rugby league competitions which already includes the Simon Mannering and Proban Cups.
Sam Hedges was an integral part of the Rabbits successful 2017 campaign and says he’s “gutted” to see the team fold.
“It was a great club. The Rabbits had connections, they got Marvin Curry to the Manly Sea Eagles and they were instrumental in myself making NZ universities, I really hope league in the region can hang in there because there are so many great pathways for players in the game.”
Sam has decided to play for Motueka this season and says early signs from the new Tasman Rugby League Board give him confidence for the future of the code.
“They have only just started and I must say they are very astute, the personnel they have on board are people like Roy Wattie who understand the game.”
On the field, the Victory Phoenix beat the Taniwha 36-12, at Champion Green in Richmond on Saturday.