New Zealand’s Newest Rugby Union .. Steeped in Tradition
The Tasman Rugby Union was formed in December 2005 to allow the region to field a team in the premier 2006 national provincial competition (then known as the Air New Zealand Cup).
The “Makos”, as the Union’s team is known, was an amalgamation of the Nelson Bays and Marlborough Rugby Unions, thereby becoming New Zealand’s newest provincial union.
Nelson is The Home of Rugby in New Zealand, being where the first ever competitive rugby match took place in May 1870 at The Botanics between a Nelson College side and Nelson Football Club.
The Nelson Bays Rugby Sub-Union, founded in 1969 and whose representative team is known as “The Griffins”, is in itself an amalgamation of the Nelson and Golden Bays Rugby Unions founded in 1885 (becoming the nation’s sixth provincial union) and 1920 respectively.
The Marlborough Rugby Sub-Union, founded in 1888 and known as the “Red Devils”, has a proud rugby heritage including holding the storied Ranfurly Shield for six defenses in 1973.
Our two venues are Lansdowne Park in Blenheim, which was completely revamped in early 2006 to meet NZRU standards, and Trafalgar Park in Nelson which underwent a major upgrade to secure the hosting of two matches in the 2011 RWC and which was largely completed in time for the 2010 NPC season, now known as the ITM Cup.
As a national provincial union, we are a feeder to the Crusaders Super Rugby franchise based in Christchurch. Since inception we have contributed numerous players to the Crusaders including 2012 Makos Tom Marshall, Joe Wheeler and Quentin MacDonald. MacDonald and Shane Christie were also selected for the 2012 touring Maori All Blacks to the UK.
Our Badge of Courage .. The Mako
Our team is named after the Mako shark or ‘blue lightening’ as it is called because of its colour and speed. It is found throughout NZ, however the waters of Cook Strait, Marlborough and Tasman Bay are the most prevalent hunting grounds for these awesome predators.
Maori greatly admired the Mako due to its legendary tenacity and willingness to fight to the last. The Mako are also renowned for their speed, strength and agility – the same qualities that our rugby team has become renowned for.
We are proud to wear the Mako emblem on our jerseys.
Our Region – The Top of the South
Our region, colloquially known as the Top of the South , or Te Tau Ihu by Maori, encompasses Nelson and Abel Tasman, Marlborough and Kaikoura.
Maori occupation dates back some 800 years, while European settlement occurred in 1842. Six Iwi groups claim ancestral occupation rights, or rights of conquest over areas in this region.
The region is acknowledged as having the most sunshine hours of any region in the country. We are surrounded by awe inspiring coastal areas including idyllic Abel Tasman National Park, the pristine Golden and Nelson bays, stunning Marlborough Sounds and playful, eco-friendly Kaikoura.
Our Union’s Mission
We raise revenue so that we may administer and foster the sport of rugby on behalf of the region’s players, coaches. referees, administrators and fans. We do so in a fiscally responsible and transparent manner.
We provide talented players, coaches, referees and administrators with pathways to fulfill their aspirations and potential.
We bring enjoyment and excitement to our fans through a positive brand and match day experience. We make all people of the region feel good and proud when we play well.
We value our fan and supporter base above all else. Without people attending matches, supporting or sponsoring our endeavours, we are nothing.
As a Union and a team, we value excellence in everything we do, on- and off the field. We put team ahead of self. Our actions speak louder than words.
Above all, we are all passionate about rugby – our fans, our sponsors and supporters, our community, our clubs, schools and representative teams, and the Makos. We all care deeply about our performance on and off the field.
Although not a wealthy Union we do our best to give back to the community through charitable donations, mainly of season ticket offers to raffle or auction, to good causes and fundraisers, especially to schools and junior rugby clubs. In addition we have offered Tasman Makos home matches as a vehicle for a non-profit organisation to conduct a bucket collection. In 2012 the beneficiaries were Plunket, Nelson Hospice and the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary Trust.
OUR PASSION RUNS DEEP
A Tasman XV played Canada 'A' on April 26 in 2006 at Trafalgar Park. The Tasman side won by 40 points, the final score being 48 points to eight. The Makos were grouped in Pool A of the 2006 Air New Zealand Cup.
In their first ever match in the Air New Zealand Cup, the Makos earned a bonus point in a loss to the North Harbour team, losing 33 points to 27. They were defeated by Auckland the following week by 40 points. However, the Makos won their first match in round three, defeating Manawatu by 43 points to 0. Their only other win of the season came at home against Northland, with an impressive 56-15 win. Despite the season record of just 2 wins and 7 losses, the Makos showed the ability to compete and provided a platform to build for the future.
The 2007 season was disappointing for the Makos, finishing the season with a record of 2 wins and 8 losses. Wins came against Hawke's Bay and Manawatu, with close losses against Waikato and Canterbury.
Early on in the 2008 season, the NZRFU announced that Tasman and Northland would be relegated from the competition at the end of the season, due to failing to meet a set of criteria including financial stability. With the axe hovering over them, the Makos produced their best season yet, silencing their critics. In round 2 against Waikato, Tasman first five Miah Nikora nailed a stunning last minute drop-goal to snatch a 14-16 victory and claim the Makos first scalp over a major union. This was followed with wins over Taranaki, Northland, Manawatu and a draw against Otago to see the Makos finish the season 7th on the ladder. Facing a strong Canterbury side in the quarter-finals, the Makos went down 48-10. However, their strong season coupled with public pressure forced the NZRFU to reverse its decision and announce that Tasman and Northland would remain in the competition.
There were doubts as to whether Tasman would contest the 2009 Air New Zealand Cup, with funding issues and disagreement amongst its stakeholders on its future. However, these disputes were resolved and Tasman finished the 2009 season in 9th place with 6 wins and 7 losses, with their most memorable performance coming in round 9 against Auckland. Tasman won 12-8 in the most significant result of their short history. The Makos had come from the brink of extinction to topple the biggest union in the country.
2010 was less successful for the Makos, finishing the season in 12th place on the ladder with just 4 wins, failing to hold on to their mid-table status achieved in the previous two seasons. However, the Makos managed to upset eventual champions and neighbours Canterbury in round 4, with a famous 27-25 victory at Trafalgar Park.
In 2011, despite just 2 wins and 14th spot, the Tasman Makos in were well received by their fans by playing a positive attacking brand of rugby that included 4 losses by 4 points or less. Famous victories were achieved against Hawkes Bay 21-19 and Auckland (again) 30-28. Shane Christie and James Marshall were selected for the New Zealand Sevens team.
This was our best year ever with 5 wins from 10 matches and making the semi-final of the Championship (a loss to Otago by 34 - 41). Victories included defeats of Premiership teams Canterbury 25 - 22 and Bay of Plenty 17 - 3, while Tasman went down in an epic Ranfurly Shield challenge 40 - 49 to Taranaki.
Shane Christie & Quentin MacDonald were selected to represent the Maori All Blacks for the end of year tour to the United Kingdom. Eight players earned Super Rugby contracts for 2013 (up from 3 players in 2012): Shane Christie, Jordan Taufua, Tom Marshall, Jeremy Su'a (Crusaders); Joe Wheeler, Sam Prattley (Highlanders); Quentin MacDonald, Tim Perry (Blues). Peter Betham returned to Australia to take up a Waratahs contract.
Culminating with winning the ITM Cup Championship Final, 2013 was the most remarkable season in the Tasman Makos eight years since inception. Team and personal bests have been broken at every turn.
Right from the start of planning coaches Kieran Keane and Leon MacDonald knew they were onto something special. The squad being assembled included 18 players who had previously been with the Makos and so they knew the philosophy and systems espoused by KK & Leon.
There were a core of players who had ITM Cup match experience of between 30 ~ 50 games. Three of these – Quentin MacDonald, Joe Wheeler and Alex Ainley – joined the 50 Game Blazer group during the season (a select group also comprising Robbie Malneek, Jonathan Poff, Mark Bright and Andrew Goodman).
The support team has been largely intact for a number of seasons with coach Keane, manager Jenelle Strickland and sports scientist Brodie Hewlett also earning their 50 Game Blazers (joining assistant manager Brett Thornalley and physio Candace Donovan).
With such a strong core at their disposal the team embarked on the 2013 season with confidence.
The 10 win – 2 loss record to date is a best ever with an amazing 7 wins in a row. The previous best sequence was just two. Twice this team has put 50 points on their opposition with another two games where 49 points were posted.
In the process they have scored a remarkable 41 tries, many of which were indeed remarkable. 39 penalties and 30 conversions rounded out the scoring. The team scored 382 points for and conceded 214.
Marty Banks, called into the squad following a couple of injuries, attracted a bit of a cult following in scoring 170 points in just 8 games. Liam Squire scored 7 tries, a best ever feat in our 8 year history.
The coaches named Quentin MacDonald as their Player of the Year, Liam Squire was named Defender of the Year whilst Joe Wheeler was voted by the players as Makoman of the Year. These three were outstanding but so were all 28 players who pulled on the Mighty Makos jersey this season.
Three players, Shane Christie, Joe Wheeler & Liam Squire were selected for the Maori All Blacks tour of North America. Seve players earned Super Rugby contracts: Tim Perry (Crusaders), Joe Wheeler & Shane Christie (Highlanders), Marty Banks (Hurricanes), Tom Marshall, James Lowe & Liam Squire (Chiefs).