There will undoubtedly be a new significance for the Meads Cup in the Heartland Rugby Championship, 2017. In the wake of the passing of the trophies namesake, teams competing in the top division of the Championship will all seek to honour Sir Colin Meads.
The Mitre 10 Heartland Championship is the provincial ‘heartland’ competition. Sides away from the big centers, in areas where rugby means the most. And it is in these areas that legends like Colin Meads and Sir Brian Lochore – namesake of the Lochore Cup – are known, and much respected.
Significance for Meads Cup in Heartland Rugby Championship
Now with the opening week of the championship on Saturday, August 26, the onus will be a respecting the legacy of the former-All Blacks captain. That applies across the board. With every player, administrator and fan feeling similarly after Sir Colin’s passing on Sunday.
All Mitre 10 Heartland Championship matches this weekend will observe a moment’s silence. In addition some teams will acknowledge Sir Colin in their own way.
The Meads Cup and the Lochore Cup, are played for across the 12 Heartland Championship sides. That includes King Country–where Sir Colin Meads farmed all his life. Born in Cambridge, the Meads family have ties to regional rugby. But also, Meads holds a rapport and reverence that exists from Thames Valley to Wesport, New Zealand.
“This week we have seen an amazing outpouring of love and gratitude for the contribution that Sir Colin made both to rugby and to the community,” was the statement from Steve Tew, New Zealand Rugby chief executive.
“It’s an appropriate mark of the status of the man that all provincial championship games up and down the country will pause this weekend to honour Sir Colin’s memory,” said NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew.
“It’s only fitting to pause and reflect on the true giant he was, and recognize his contribution to both rugby and the country.”
Heartland Rugby Represents Province and Country
As well as the recognition of a fallen Pinetree, the new ‘timber’ of the provincial rugby landscape will be on display. Players from the outskirts of major centers now get their opportunities to impress.
Many will be veterans of previous campaigns. Some have accumulated an entire career representing their province, and others are young men wanting to start new careers. The often ‘amateur sportsmen’ have more and more chances to show the rugby public and Super Rugby franchises, their talent with TV exposure and publications/sites like Last Word on Rugby.
And that base of talent will be bolstered by some bigger names in 2017. Former All Blacks Piri Weepu (see below picture), Alby Mathewson, Regan King and Corey Flynn have been named to play for Wairarapa Bush, King Country, Mid Canterbury and West Coast respectively. Bringing international experience to the Heartland Championship.
New Zealand Rugby’s head of Provincial Union Rugby Steve Lancaster, said in a media release that the wealth of talent has only improved, with the addition of players like Weepu and Flynn. “A great competition that showcases the depth and breadth of rugby in our country. Year in and year out we are treated to fantastic rugby from these teams and 2017 will be no different.”
Heartland XV the Ultimate Goal for Players to Represent Their Country
Players will be vying to impress representative selectors too in 2017. To impress provincial fans and possibly earn a place in the New Zealand Heartland XV. This selection will be named in November, to face stiff opposition.
The Heartland XV, in their quest to retain the MacCrae Cup, will again be coached by South Canterbury’s Barry Matthews. He will be joined by Craig Scanlon, co-Coach of the Buller team who played in last year’s Meads Cup final, as Assistant Coach.
This all adds to the significance of Week One fixtures. Meads Cup holders Wanganui will be out to defend their title. They’ll kick off their title defence by hosting their 2016 semi-final opponents Wairarapa Bush.
The 2016 Lochore Cup winners North Otago will travel up to Horowhenua-Kapiti for their opening match, the two teams settling for a draw in their last encounter.
Other first round fixtures see East Coast host Thames Valley, King Country play West Coast, Mid Canterbury up against Poverty Bay and a South Island battle between Buller and South Canterbury.
And then the battle for the Championship begins–after first, paying their respects to Sir Colin Meads. RIP
See the Heartland Rugby website, for all the details for the 2017 Mitre 10 Heartland Championship.
“Main photo credit”
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