Masterton Red Star [black and white] in better times. PHOTO/FILE

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Masterton Red Star will be in the Wairarapa-Bush Premier Club Rugby Championship for the long haul.

Rumours had been rife among the rugby community that the struggling side would withdraw from the competition.

The club has started the Moose Kapene Cup with 60-point losses to Marist and Greytown, followed by a 96-5 loss to Gladstone in the latest round of matches.

Injuries meant the team could only name a squad of 19 for the Gladstone game.

The transfer of the promising Jack Loader to Carterton has also put a big dent in the team’s playing resources.

However, Masterton Red Star Council of Clubs delegate Kelvin Wilson has confirmed that the club will continue to field a premier side.

“Like a lot of clubs, we’re struggling as we don’t have the luxury of a senior reserve team. We have 25 to 27 registered players, but we’ve had three players out with concussion, meaning a three-week stand down, and another three players out with injuries, so once we get those right, we should be a lot better off.”

Wilson described the club’s current plight as cyclical.

“All the Masterton clubs are struggling for numbers at the moment and the country clubs tend to be stronger. It’s the cycle we’re going through.”

“We were given only two weeks to get a premier team together last year [after the late withdrawal of Pioneer] and we had already lost a lot of players from the team that won the [2017] senior reserves, and we haven’t got a lot of
them back.

“The club has had discussions on how to get more players and we know we need two teams to be viable, but we won’t pay players in any way, with petrol or other expenses. Unlike some clubs, we’ve done none of that.”

Wilson said behind the scenes the club was strong.

“We’re doing a hell of a lot of work off the field to turn the club around, we’re financially pretty OK, have a great committee and we have bloody good supporters.

“A lot of hard work has been put into our home grounds at Colombo Rd and we’re playing most of our home games down there, so the club is looking good.”

Masterton Red Star will host Eketahuna in Saturday’s match at Colombo Rd.

Meanwhile, the Wairarapa-Bush Union is rapt with the response to playing all premier club rugby matches under lights last Thursday night, giving the players Easter off.

Chief executive Tony Hargood estimated a crowd between 400 to 500 was at Memorial Park for the matches between Greytown and Martinborough, and East Coast and Carterton.

“The reaction from the players, especially the married guys, was fantastic,” he said.

“It meant that they could spend the long weekend with their families.”

“East Coast ran the bar and took the profits. It was a great success and the response from the spectators was also very positive.”

Another Wairarapa-Bush initiative, to record one game a week and replay it on Wairarapa TV, is also proving popular.

“Thursday night’s game between East Coast and Carterton was recorded and streamed and already there have been more than 3000 views,” Hargood said.

“Over the three games recorded so far, there have been over 10,000 views.”

Hargood was meeting Toby Mills from Wairarapa TV on Tuesday afternoon to see how the service can be extended.