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Puketoi pull the pin

Puketoi [yellow, green hoops] playing Tuhirangi in last year’s senior reserve semifinal. The popular country club will be missing from this year’s competition. PHOTO/FILE


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Wairarapa-Bush club rugby’s epic bus trips will be sorely missed this season with the withdrawal of Puketoi from the senior reserve championship.

Former All Black and Puketoi president Brett Harvey confirmed on Wednesday that the club has gone into recess because the loss of most of the players from last year’s squad made it impractical to enter a team for the 2022 season.

Harvey thanked the committee members for the time they have put into the club over the years, especially the Pitt family who had done a lot of recruiting work over the years.

The withdrawal is not the first time Puketoi have pulled out of Wai-Bush club competitions. Wai-Bush’s northernmost club withdrew before the start of the 2014 season, only to re-enter in 2016.

The Puketoi club was formed in 1987 after the demise of the Puketoi sub-union, which included teams from Pongaroa, Coast, Tiraumea, United, Weber, Excelsior [Dannevirke], and Ruahine [Dannevirke].

Harvey played his early rugby for Tiraumea before moving to Featherston, from where he was named as a flanker in the 1986 ‘Baby All Blacks’ who beat France in a one-off test match in Christchurch.

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Another one-test All Blacks lock, the late Mike McCool, played his club rugby in the Puketoi sub-union, and the late Bruce Bowie became a Wai-Bush cult figure in the 1990s as a bruising flanker.

Wai-Bush executive officer Tony Hargood was disappointed to lose Puketoi and said Wai-Bush are working on some strategies for north Wairarapa.

“The demographics up there have definitely changed, and the Bush Rugby Club [who play in Manawatu] are down on numbers too,” said Hargood.

“It’s a changing economic environment, but I’m confident they will come back,”

Hargood expects six to eight teams to line up in the senior reserve competition, down from the 10 in 2021.

The Puketoi club will continue to field teams in the southern-central Hawke’s Bay competitions.

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