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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Hard work pays off for Masterton Red Star

There’s a bit more to the Masterton Red Star Rugby Club [MRS] than just running a team in black and white onto the paddock each week.

The progressive club has worked hard over recent years to earn the right to play premier club rugby again, and their efforts have been rewarded after the reconfiguration of the competitions by the Wairarapa Bush Council of Clubs paved the way for all clubs to play at the top level.

Away from the field, MRS has been making the most of their Colombo Road facility, including selling off a large chunk of the ground to the NZ Motor Caravan Association, which has established a motor park for its members.

The grandstand also houses Undisputed MMA, a mixed martial arts club which moved into the facility about four years ago.

Run by former Aucklander Emile Johnson, Undisputed MMA has about 500 signed-up members but usually has about 40 regular participants, mostly children, starting from as young as six.

Johnson said the kids come from all different backgrounds, and the aim is to teach them discipline and provide goal setting. As well as the children, Johnson provides personal training sessions for people with addiction problems and mental health issues.

There is also the competitive side, with international representatives Corbyn Mita [three world championship gold medals], Jamie Nepia, Zac Rowe, and Michelle Ihaka training at the gym. New Zealand age group boxing international Daisee Omundsen has also recently come under Johnson’s tutelage.

But it is on the rugby field that MRS want to make an impact in their return to the premier division for the first time since 2019, when they were forced to withdraw because of a lack of players and a string of poor results.

The team is coached by club stalwart Chris Senior, who returned to the club three years ago after a stint coaching the Carterton premier side.

Senior said that getting to where the club is now is a good reward for the work that has been done behind the scenes and with the players.

“It’s been three years, not just the last few months; it’s something we’ve been working towards, and we’ve been working with a group of young boys we want to expose to the next level, whereas in the past, we’ve had those boys and we lose them and they go to other clubs,” Senior said.

“This gives us a chance to hang on to them and see what they can do.

“We had to get a lot of things right in our systems and what we were doing, so it’s probably being our big work on and we’ve now got the players and the stuff behind the scenes, which is just as important.

“I guess we’ve put the work into the foundations. We talked about it [going up to the premier division] when I first came back to the club in 2021, even then if we had the opportunity, we probably wouldn’t have taken it.”

Senior knows the chance to compete against the seven other premier teams means a lot to the club and its loyal supporters, but he acknowledges it isn’t going to be an easy road ahead.

“We had a chat about it with the boys. We’re not going to go and win the championship and we’re not going to make the top four. The first goal is to win one game, and we’ll go from there.

“We haven’t won a senior A [premier] game since 2012, when I was playing. That’s the first milestone, is to get that sucker, and once we knock that off, then two games, three games, then four. The boys are aware, too, that it ain’t going to happen without them putting the work in, which is why they’re showing up to training.”

The return to premier status has resulted in some past players, notably utility back Pua Tafa from Marist and David Kelly from Gladstone, returning to the club. However, the team will be without one of their most influential players, 2022 Wai Bush number 8 Jack Loader, who will sit out the season after a shoulder reconstruction.

    MRS kick off their season with a home game against last year’s beaten finalists, Greytown, at Colombo Road next Saturday.

    < MRS want to make an impact in their return to the premier division for the first time since 2019, when they were forced to withdraw because of a lack of players and a string of poor results.

    The team is coached by club stalwart Chris Senior, who returned to the club three years ago after a stint coaching the Carterton premier side.

    Senior said that getting to where the club is now is a good reward for the work that has been done behind the scenes and with the players.

    “It’s been three years, not just the last few months; it’s something we’ve been working towards, and we’ve been working with a group of young boys we want to expose to the next level, whereas in the past, we’ve had those boys and we lose them and they go to other clubs,” Senior said.

    “This gives us a chance to hang on to them and see what they can do.

    “We had to get a lot of things right in our systems and what we were doing, so it’s probably being our big work on and we’ve now got the players and the stuff behind the scenes, which is just as important.

    “I guess we’ve put the work into the foundations. We talked about it [going up to the premier division] when I first came back to the club in 2021, even then if we had the opportunity, we probably wouldn’t have taken it.”

    Senior knows the chance to compete against the seven other premier teams means a lot to the club and its loyal supporters, but he acknowledges it isn’t going to be an easy road ahead.

    “We had a chat about it with the boys. We’re not going to go and win the championship and we’re not going to make the top four. The first goal is to win one game, and we’ll go from there.

    “We haven’t won a senior A [premier] game since 2012, when I was playing. That’s the first milestone, is to get that sucker, and once we knock that off, then two games, three games, then four.

    “The boys are aware, too, that it ain’t going to happen without them putting the work in, which is why they’re showing up to training.”

    The return to premier status has resulted in some past players, notably utility back Pua Tafa from Marist and David Kelly from Gladstone, returning to the club. However, the team will be without one of their most influential players, 2022 Wai Bush number 8 Jack Loader, who will sit out the season after a shoulder reconstruction.

    MRS kick off their season with a home game against last year’s beaten finalists, Greytown, at Colombo Road next Saturday.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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