Braxton Prentice in action for East Coast Under-6s. PHOTO/KJ PHOTOGRAPHIC

RUGBY

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

They may not have won any of the Wairarapa-Bush JAB rugby grades this season, but the East Coast Rugby Football Club has undoubtedly been one of the success stories of 2018.

Four years ago, there were no junior East Coast teams running around at Whareama, but this year they had a record number of JAB registrations.

More than 40 children registered for the club this year, as more emphasis was put on recognising the importance of junior players as the foundation of the club’s future senior teams.

The season culminated in the club’s prize-giving on Sunday, which marked a significant point in the club’s history as Under-9 rugby, ripper rugby and junior hockey all held their respective awards ceremonies at the club’s home grounds at Whareama, for the first time in many years.

The club’s two ripper teams played their games at the Jeans St grounds this season, while the Under-9s played at Marist.

The club also has an Under-11 side which is combined with Eketahuna, and even got to play a home match at Whareama.

Former East Coast Rugby Football Club president Murray Brown said the significance of holding the club’s prize-giving at Whareama could not be overstated.

“I felt wonderfully privileged to attend our East Coast junior prize-giving and absolutely thrilled that it was held at Whareama.

“The history of the club forms those foundation stones and this is certainly where it all began for our club.

“Huge congratulations to our coaches, all those parents and caregivers, and the biggest applause goes to all our young players.”

East Coast Rugby Football Club life member and former JAB coach, Tony Molenaar, said it was a thrill for those with ties to the club to see the JAB programme going from strength to strength.

“It is so important to the club, supporters and older members to see our JAB numbers so strong.

“The JAB are the future of our club.”

Under-9 manager and JAB co-ordinator Richard Fairbrother said earlier this season that the family-oriented environment had played a big part in the club’s resurgence.

“A feature of the club is the great support the players receive from parents, family and friends, and the club is also supported by a wonderful group of sponsors who help to ensure that JAB rugby is able to be funded and developed at the coast.”

“Playing a home game back at the coast was a highlight – the club is looking forward to another successful season with our junior coasties.”

Fairbrother was awarded the Junior Administrator of the Year award at last year’s Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Awards for his work in the East Coast programme, after playing such a large part in getting the club’s JAB teams up and running again.

For the Under-9 team, awards at Sunday’s prize-giving went to Logan O’Neale [most valuable player], Luke Fairbrother [best forward], Tama Ratima [best back] and Freddy Tatham [most improved].

In the Under-6 ripper teams, the awards went to Frank Liddle and Jane Shelton [most valuable players], Luke Shelton and Harlem Williams [most improved], Jamie Griggs [best stepper] and Braxton Prentice [most enthusiastic].