For the first time in nearly a decade Counties Manukau Rugby will run a club U19s competition this year in a major boost for the sport in the region.
The Union and clubs have worked hard together to make the concept a possibility and four teams have confirmed to take part at this stage – Karaka, Papakura, Pukekohe and TeMaraWhero – a combination entity from the neighbouring Te Kauwhata, Maramarua and Onewhero clubs in the south of the region.
Te Kauwhata’s Mario Vodanovich said by combining their resources they have dramatically increased the likelihood of being able to successfully field a team.
“It is real exciting times at the moment,” Vodanovich told Counties Sports Hub. “We did that under 18 last year, the club of origin, and it has sort of just carried on from that.
“There's been a bit of interest there and we just had a meeting last week to get the ball rolling again this year.”
The TeMaraWhero concept is nothing new – the three clubs have worked together over the years as a combined entity on and off for more than 20 years.
“The TeMaraWhero started well before my time,” Vodanovich explained. “So quite a few years ago now as under 19 and under 21 sort of grade, like a mini rep team after the Counties season had finished. They’d go along and play a few other games and had two tours overseas and that and sort of dropped off there for a bit. We've been sort of reigniting it lately just trying to keep it back going. The clubs play for the Golden Gumboot and that's based around the TeMaraWhero concept.
“The idea behind it is each club will contribute x amount of players, some maybe more than others depending on the interest and our clubs will use it as like a feeder to the to the senior teams.
“The ones that don't want to do a big jump up from school rugby up to seniors can do a stepping stone for a year or two before they jump up to seniors.”
A muster for the team will be held at 2pm on February 12 at Muddy Waters in Mercer.
The last time Counties Manukau Rugby ran an U19s competition was 2015 when Hauraki North triumphed over Karaka, Pukekohe and Waiuku in the Bright Cup.
There was a small U20 competition for the following season with two teams competing.
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