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|Affiliation||New Zealand Rugby|
|President||Bruce Hemara |
|Chairman||Tyn Myers |
|Director||Barry Roche |
Founded in 1886, Manawatu is one of New Zealand's oldest rugby unions. In 1892, the MRU, amongst other unions, was instrumental in the founding of the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU). In 1997-98 Manawatu entered into an amalgamation with Hawke's Bay, as the "Central Vikings", and wore orange and blue.
The union is based in the city of Palmerston North though its catchment area includes players and clubs from nearby towns in the province, including Ashhurst, Feilding, Rongotea, Linton, Bulls, Pahiatua, Woodville and Dannevirke. It has over 5,000 players, making it the tenth largest union in New Zealand in terms of player numbers. In 2011, the union celebrated its 125th jubilee.
Manawatu have traditionally played in a distinctive green and white tramline jersey, which is thought to have been established in 1909. In 1996, a jersey including red was worn, and colours worn have varied since the union was formed. The union's home ground is Central Energy Trust Arena. It was host to two matches during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
There are 10 club teams which play at Senior A level. They are:
|? High School Old Boys-Marist (OBM)||Black, White & Green hoops||Palmerston North|
|College Old Boys (COB)||White, Maroon, Gold & Black||Palmerston North|
|Freyberg (Freys)||Royal Blue & Gold||Milson, Palmerston North|
|Kia Toa||Light Blue & Dark Blue||Awapuni/Highbury, Palmerston North|
|Varsity||Sky Blue||Massey University, Palmerston North|
|Feilding (Feilding Yellows)||Yellow & Black||Feilding|
|+ Feilding Old Boys-Oroua RFC (FOB-O)||Black, White, Red & Blue||Feilding and Kimbolton|
|×Dannevirke||Black and Gold||Dannevirke|
|Linton Army||Red & Black||Linton Military Camp|
|Te Kawau||Emerald Green & Black||Rongotea|
? High School Old Boys-Marist is an amalgamation of High School Old Boys and Marist Rugby Clubs
+ Feilding Old Boys-Oroua is an amalgamation of the Feilding Old Boys and Oroua Rugby Clubs
× Dannevirke Sports Club was formerly affiliated with Hawke's Bay, however in 2007, it switched its affiliation to Manawatu.
Other clubs include:
|Ashhurst-Pohangina||Green and Gold||Ashhurst|
|Bunnythorpe||Maroon, Gold and Black||Bunnythorpe|
|Halcombe||Black and Red||Halcombe|
|° Bush Sports||Red and Blue||Pahiatua|
° Junior level only is played in Manawatu; Senior level has returned to Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union.
Current or recent Manawatu players who have played for the Hurricanes:
In recent times, Manawatu have also provided players to each of the other New Zealand Super Rugby franchises.
Manawatu Players who have played for the Crusaders:
Manawatu Players who have played for the Highlanders:
Manawatu Players who have played for the Chiefs:
Manawatu players who have played for the Blues:
In 2009, Central Energy Trust Arena was the venue for a Highlanders home game against the Bulls.
|Union||Manawatu Rugby Union|
|Central Energy Trust Arena (Capacity: 18,000)|
|John Kendal Stu Ross|
|Women's Provincial Championship|
Manawatu Cyclones is the women's representative team. The Cyclones wear the same green and white tramline jersey design as the men's team.
In 2005, the team was promoted from the Second Division. In 2006, however, Manawatu did not win a game in the competition, which saw the team play against the likes of Auckland, Wellington and Otago. Manawatu drew with Hawke's Bay.
In 2012, the Women's Provincial Championship format was a full round robin of six teams playing six rounds (each team with one bye round). The Cyclones began with a bye. Wins for the Cyclones were over Waikato, Wellington and Hawke's Bay. Unfortunately large losses to Otago and eventual finalists Auckland and Canterbury and missing crucial bonus points, meant the Cyclones did not make the post-season.
The Manawatu rugby union was formed on 17 April 1886 at Palmerston North, with the founding clubs being: Palmerston, Feilding and Foxton. It was initially named the Manawatu County Union but was renamed in 1888. The sport had been introduced to the area by a few players from Wanganui, who had moved into the region. Following the unions establishment many other clubs were formed as the sport became more popular.
The first recorded match in the Manawatu took place on 13 July 1878. A Feilding side faced a "Rangitikei Combined Clubs XV" which was played at Feilding.
The first Ranfurly Shield game Manawatu appeared in was in 1914. This was played against Taranaki at Pukekura Park. The match was lost 11-3 with William Carroll scoring a sole try. Their next challenge came ten years later, in 1924, where they would lose 31-5 to Hawke's Bay. Manawatu also provided J.F. Manning to referee a match in 1905 between Auckland and Wellington.
1970s: Glory Days and Shield Era
The period from 1976 to 1983 saw Manawatu as a powerhouse in New Zealand rugby. To date, the only Ranfurly Shield reign (1976-78) was followed by a National Provincial Championship (NPC) victory in 1980. Manawatu were also NPC runner-ups in 1976 and 1981.
In the final Ranfurly Shield challenge of the 1978 season Manawatu were leading North Auckland (now named Northland) 10-9 with time up on the clock. A continued Ranfurly Shield reign seemed possible. The referee, Bill Adlam, from Wanganui, played 5-6 minutes of 'injury' time before awarding the visitors a penalty, due to an offside, close to the posts. A penalty kick was successful and thus, the shield was awarded to North Auckland. The referee then required a police escort off Showgrounds Oval (as it was known) while Manawatu fans showed their disgust and disappointment. Adlam claimed after the match that the game clock at the venue had not allocated for a couple of "lengthy" injury breaks, and so he rightly let the game go on. This was also backed up by a photographer who accurately timed the game.
Controversy had also stirred a year prior, in 1977. The Auckland rugby union had a legitimate request for a shield challenge that season which was denied by Manawatu who argued that Auckland had had 'too much influence in shield rugby for too long'.
Auckland would later win back the shield in 1979. They denied Manawatu a challenge in 1980.
In 1980, its championship winning season, Manawatu had eight All Blacks within the team.
In 1983 the Canterbury Ranfurly Shield team put Manawatu last on their list of challengers for that season. Auckland and Wellington were considered easier options.
In 1985, Manawatu celebrated a centenary of club competition and in 1986, the union's centenary.
In 1988, the union was relegated to the second division for the first time.
Manawatu, based in the second division, was reduced to a 'feeder' role, effectively developing players for other unions.
In 1996 Manawatu and Hawke's Bay merged their teams to form the Central Vikings Rugby Union. It was an attempt to elevate both unions back to the first division. Players such as Mark Allen, Christian Cullen, Mark Ranby, Stephen Bachop and Roger Randle featured in the team. The 1997 season saw them finish second overall with 6 wins and 2 losses. This saw the team into the semi-finals. In the semi-final, the Vikings would go on to beat Bay of Plenty and came up against Northland in the final. Northland won the final 63-10. Northland were thus promoted to the first division. However, had the Vikings won, they would not have been eligible to be promoted.
1998 saw a repeat of form for the Vikings who went unbeaten in the season. They subsequently won the final against Bay of Plenty and were promoted to first division. However, due to financial issues, the merger split back to Manawatu and Hawke's Bay as separate unions. Manawatu returned in 1999 to the second division.
Manawatu began the new millennium firmly fixed in the second tier competition.
In 2005, Manawatu were defeated 6-109 by the touring British and Irish Lions at Palmerston North. In the same year Manawatu were given an invitation to return to the top level in a revamped NPC competition.
Fly-half Aaron Cruden was selected for the All Blacks in 2010. He was the first All Black chosen whilst playing for the union since Christian Cullen in 1996. In 2012, Cruden was joined by teammate, Aaron Smith. The addition of Smith meant for the first time since 1986, two All Blacks came from Manawatu. Lately, more players from Manawatu have been selected for Super Rugby teams.
In 2005, Manawatu were invited (with four other unions, reduced to three after an amalgamation) to play in the first division of a restructured National Provincial Championship, initially called (for sponsorship purposes) the Air New Zealand Cup (now known as the Mitre 10 Cup). As well as propelling Manawatu into professional rugby, it was also the first time since 1988 the top grade competition would feature a team from the province.
Fans of Manawatu rugby are known throughout the rugby community in New Zealand for their habit of wearing plastic garden buckets cut to shape over their heads during matches. As such, fans of the provincial side have picked up the self-named nickname of "Bucketheads".
Manawatu had two theme songs during their 'glory' years, which were played on radio '2ZA' in the days leading up to the big games on Saturday. They were:
In New Zealand, to be selected to the All Blacks is the pinnacle of rugby achievement. In its 126-year history, Manawatu have produced many players who have been selected for the national team.
|Player Name||All Black Number||Years||Total matches (tests)||Club||Nickname||About|
|Mark Allen||933||1993-97||27 (8)||Massey University||"Bull"||A 'cult hero' and loosehead prop, he is more associated with his home province of Taranaki, from where he made his All Black debut.
However, in 1997, he moved to Manawatu, where he captained the Manawatu/Hawkes Bay Central Vikings. It was from this position that he played his one and only test match as a starting player (against England at Twickenham - his last test).
|Keith Bagley||548||1953-54||20 (0)||Kia Toa||Retired at aged 23 to his family farm.|
|Robert (Bob) Burgess||690||1971-73||30 (7)||Massey University||Debuted for the All Blacks against the 1971 Lions. He was a stand out player in this series before being injured in the 3rd test which ended his season.
Toured Britain in 1972/73 before retiring in 1973. An anti-apartheid activist, Burgess declined consideration for the 1970 tour to South Africa and campaigned against the 1981 tour by the Springboks.
|John Callesen||727||1974-76||18 (4)||High School Old Boys ?||Second rower whose career was ended by back problems. Went back to the farm after excelling for both Manawatu and the All Blacks.|
|Lachlan Cameron||796||1979-81||17 (5)||Massey University||Lachie||An exciting midfielder from the Varsity club. In 1981 he played in the dramatic 3rd Test versus the Springboks at Eden Park.|
|Alphonsus Carroll||217||1920||8 (0)||Jackeytown ?||"Phonse"||A dairy farmer, he played his first game of rugby at aged 22 in 1917. Toured Australia in 1920. Politically 'left of centre' he was a 'conscientious objector' during World War One. Switched codes to Rugby league in 1925 and represented the Kiwis.|
|Sam Cockroft||21||1893||12 (0)||Palmerston ?||Played only one season in Manawatu.|
|Aaron Cruden||1105||2010-17||50 (50)||College Old Boys||First Five-Eighth, made his All Black debut on 10 June 2010 against Ireland in New Plymouth. Cancer survivor and son of former Manawatu forward Stu Cruden.|
|Christian Cullen||952||1996-2002||60 (58)||Kia Toa||"Paekakariki Express"||One of world rugby's most talented and entertaining fullbacks of any era. Was a Wellingtonian for most of his All Black career. Shot to stardom at the 1996 Hong Kong Sevens.|
|Chresten Davis||958||1996||2 (0)||Massey University.||"Chester"|
|Mark Donaldson||781||1977-81||35 (13)||High School Old Boys?||"Bullet"||An inspiration to Manawatu rugby. Later coached an exciting and youthful Manawatu side in the early-90s.
In 1981, in his last touch of the ball in All Black rugby, Donaldson took a quick-thinking tap on a free kick late in the series-deciding test against South Africa. This play was instrumental in setting up Alan Hewson's famous last-minute penalty goal.
|Kevin Eveleigh||740||1974-77||30 (4)||Feilding||"Hayburner"||Voted Rugby News' 'All Black player of the tour', to South Africa, 1976.|
|Brian Finlay||596||1959||1 (1)||Marist ?||Debuted at aged 31. His only test against the 1959 Lions, the famous 1st test where Don Clarke's six penalty goals gave New Zealand an 18-17 win. Finlay was badly injured early but returned to the field after treatment. Due to injury was not considered for the remainder of the series.|
|Jack Finlay||455||1946||1 (1)||Feilding Old Boys ?||World War Two shortened his potential All Black career.|
|Mark Finlay||856||1984||2 (0)||High School Old Boys ?||ex PNBHS 1st XV star who toured Fiji.|
|William Freebairn||554||1953-54||14 (0)||Feilding||"Stewie"||Feilding Agricultural High School.|
|Ken Granger||755||1976||6 (0)||Freyberg Old Boys||"Gringo"||Manawatu stalwart who retired after a record 128 games for the province. An outstanding 1976 season earned him a winger's position on the end of year tour to Argentina. He was given the nickname 'Gringo' on this tour.|
|Perry Harris||751||1976||4 (1)||Te Kawau||Called into the injury hit All Black tour party in South Africa, two days after Manawatu's historic Ranfurly Shield win at Eden Park, in 1976. Played the 3rd test of that tour.|
|Bruce Hemara||859||1985||3 (0)||Freyberg Old Boys||Manawatu Player of the Year 1983, NZ M?ori representative. With All Black hooking incumbent, Andy Dalton, unavailable for the All Blacks' tour to Argentina in 1985, Hemara was his natural replacement.
In 1986, Dalton was away with the New Zealand Cavaliers in South Africa which allowed Hemara to win selection for the All Blacks in the first test against France. Injury prevented Hemara from making his much deserved test debut and Sean Fitzpatrick took his place. Later, Hemara became assistant coach of the Turbos (2006-10).
|Jackson Hemopo||1173||2018–||1 (1)||Kia Toa||Member of the PNBHS 1st XV. Called in to the All Blacks squad as injury cover and made his debut against France in June 2018.|
|Ron Horsley||610||1960-64||3 (0)||Kia Toa||"Honest Ron"||Made his All Black debut playing for Wellington. The imposing lock forward captained Manawatu in 1962 before coaching Kia Toa.|
|Gary Knight||782||1977-86||66 (36)||High School Old Boys ?||"Axle"||The lyric "Let them feel the power of country might" was surely written with him in mind. Famously hit by a flour bomb dropped by a protest aircraft vs South Africa at Eden Park in 1981. Won the New Zealand Rugby Player of the Year trophy in 1981.|
|Kent Lambert||718||1972-77||40 (11)||Massey University||Formidable prop forward. Went to Penrith Panthers in the NSWRL, 1978. Was one of the first All Blacks to publicly complain about the financial burden of amateur rugby. Was a truck driver during his playing days. Injury cut short his league career.|
|Ngani Laumape||1160||2017–||8 (6)||Kia Toa||Member of the PNBHS 1st XV. Started playing rugby league for the New Zealand Warriors. Switched back to rugby union in 2016.|
|Arthur Law||319||1925||4 (0)||High School Old Boys ?||A farmer, he was a star for the PNBHS 1st XV for several seasons.|
|John Loveday||787||1978||7 (0)||High School Old Boys ?||A chiropractor by trade, he ironically suffered from a 'bad back' which limited his appearances on his one and only All Black tour: the victorious Grand Slam of 1978. He was a pivotal member of the Ranfurly Shield side in the 1970s but in 1979 he retired from rugby to concentrate on his medical career.|
|Rod McKenzie||403||1934-38||35 (9)||Kia Toa||"Squire"|
|Alex McMinn||114||1904||1 (1)||College St Old Boys ?||Paddy||His Irish father was sent out to New Zealand by a London newspaper to cover the 'M?ori wars' in Taranaki in 1963 and later established the Manawatu Evening Standard. Paddy's younger brother 'Archie' was also an All Black.|
|Archibald McMinn||102||1903-05||10 (2)||Institute ?||Archie||An imposing line-out specialist with the pace of a wing three-quarter. A fishmonger who died in 1919 aged 38.|
|John Mowlem||37||1893||4 (0)||Palmerston ?|
|Mick O'Callaghan||676||1968||3 (3)||Massey University||A winger and crowd favourite, played for Manawatu until the 1979 season.|
|Geoff Old||817||1980-83||17 (3)||High School Old Boys ?||A police officer, he was on active duty during the 1981 Springbok tour together with playing in the series deciding test at Eden Park, won 25-22 by the All Blacks.|
|Frank Oliver||750||1976-81||43 (17)||Marist ?||"Filth"||A welcome recruit from Southland in 1979, one year after being a member of the All Blacks historic Grand Slam winning tour of the UK and Ireland. An integral part of the 1980 NPC winning side. Selected on the centenary tour of Wales in late 1980.|
|Doug Rollerson||758||1976-81||24 (8)||Massey University||In 1980 he was player of the season in Manawatu's championship winning team and in the same year he starred on the All Blacks centenary tour to Wales. His dropped goal, which creaked over the bar against the Springboks in the dramatic 3rd Test in 1981, helped the All Blacks win this memorable series.
Shocked NZ rugby when he announced he was leaving for the North Sydney Bears in the NSWRL for the 1982 season. His subsequent professional rugby league career was considered unsuccessful, persistent injuries didn't help. He died on 3 May 2017, aged 63, after a long battle with cancer.
|Kevin Schuler||904||1989-95||13 (4)||Massey University||"Herb"|
|Mark Shaw||810||1980-86||69 (30)||Kia Toa||"Cowboy"||A meat worker by trade; Longburn Freezing Works. Would cycle home along Palmerston North's College Street on his ten-speed bike, while joking with the kids running alongside him (one of which was the author).
Remembered fondly as a hero and a genuine inspiration to all Manawatu rugby fans.
|Graham Shannon||31||1893||6 (0)||Marton ?|
|Aaron Smith||1112||2012-||74 (74)||Feilding||"Nugget"||Became the All Black's first choice halfback in 2013.|
|Sam Strahan||657||1967-73||45 (17)||Oroua ?||Imposing second rower, formed a formidable combination with John Calleson.|
|Craig Wickes||821||1980||1 (0)||Palmerston North Boys' High School||At aged 18 years, 196 days this schoolboy winger was the 2nd youngest All Black ever, behind 17-year-old Lui Paewai in 1923. A series of knee injuries, sustained in 1981, destroyed his chance of playing for the All Blacks again and limited his provincial and club rugby future as well.|
Bold = indicates current player
? = indicates a club amalgamated with another
? = indicates a club no longer in the Manawatu Rugby Union
? = a club no longer extant
|Player Name||All Black Number||Years||Total matches (tests)||Club when at Manawatu||About|
|John Buxton||No. 573||1955||2 (2)||Massey University|
|Graham Delamore||No. 493||1949||9 (1)||represented Manawatu 1943-44.|
|Keith Gudsell||No. 500||1949||6 (0)||Massey University|
|Jason Eaton||#1063||2005-09||17 (17)||Feilding||Manawatu (2002-03); Moved to Taranaki before making All Black debut.|
|Jason Hewett||No. 914||1991||1 (1)||Massey University||Manawatu (1988-90). He was recruited into the Auckland NPC side midway through 1990. He made his All Black debut at the 1991 World Cup.|
|John Hotop||No. 540||1952||3 (3)||Massey University|
|Brian Molloy||No. 588||1957||5 (0)||Massey University|
|Dick Myers||No. 779||1977||5 (1)||Massey University|
|Bob Oliphant||No. 45||1893||3 (0)|
|Syd Orchard||No. 61||1896||8 (0)|
|Mark Ranby||#1001||2001||1 (1)||Massey University||Moved to Waikato before becoming an All Black.|
|Keith Reid||No. 365||1929||5 (2)|
|Lee Stensness||No. 932||1993-97||14 (8)||Massey University||Played his last game for Manawatu in 1992, before moving to Auckland. The following year he made a fine All Black debut, in the deciding test against the Lions at Eden Park, which the All Blacks won 30-13.
Stensness looked to have a long and distinguished career in the number 12 jersey for the All Blacks ahead of him. However, injury and loss of form meant he played just eight tests.
|Bob Stuart||No. 510||1949-54||27 (7)||played 4 matches for Manawatu in 1941.|
|Kel Tremain||No. 604||1959-68||38 (27)||Massey University||Played 6 games for Manawatu in 1958|
|Wilson Whineray||No. 585||1957-65||77 (32)||Massey University||Played for Manawatu in 1955 before leaving for Canterbury.|
|Murray Watts||No. 793||1979-80||13 (5)||Teachers College - Freyberg||A Manawatu junior All Black who moved back to Taranaki before becoming an All Black.|
|Dion Waller||#1011||2001||3 (1)||Marist||Played the 1997 and 1998 seasons with Manawatu and the Central Vikings before becoming an All Black with Wellington.|