PIC Steelers still holding out hope of NPC return

Counties Manukau Rugby is not giving up hope of a return to the Bunnings Warehouse NPC this season for the PIC Steelers and is continuing to work with New Zealand Rugby to come up with a plan to get the Auckland-based Unions back into the competition.

With rugby only possible at Alert Level 2 or better, the three Auckland-based provinces (Auckland, North Harbour and Counties Manukau) remain in lockdown.

The Bunnings Warehouse National Provincial Championship re-started last weekend with teams outside of Auckland resuming their seasons.

With the Auckland region set to spend the next two weeks at Alert Level 3, the earliest the PIC Steelers can return to training at this point would be Wednesday, October 6.

The players would then need a reasonable amount of time on the training field before they would be ready to return to NPC action.

Counties Manukau Rugby chief executive Aaron Lawton said he was in constant dialogue with NZ Rugby about what options they have of returning to the competition.

“We are looking at a raft of different ideas and concepts to try and find suitable ways to reintegrate the Auckland-based teams back into the NPC,” Lawton said.

“There is a real willingness from all parties to try and find a solution and we will do everything we can to get our PIC Steelers back playing this year.

“I know both the players and management team are hanging out to get back on the field and we certainly haven’t given up hope yet.”

Lawton also acknowledged the support of the Union’s major partners who had been continuing to back the PIC Steelers in spite of the uncertainty.

“We are blessed to have such strong support from our sponsors,” he said.

“We are speaking regularly to the likes of PIC, Navigation Homes, South Auckland Motors, Paerata Rise, Barfoot & Thompson, CCC and Counties Energy along with many others and, like us, they are simply hanging out to see the Steelers back in action again.

“We will leave no stone unturned as we seek to repay their support and the support of this proud province’s loyal fans.

“The message is simple – we are down but far from out right now.”

NZR has today confirmed the schedule for the next three weeks of the competition, without the Auckland sides.