Like other provincial championships, bringing the game home to the nation is the point-of-difference. The emphasis on the heartland and ‘grassroots rugby’ is where fans can engage with a game that seems to always be played in the big centers – Mitre 10 Cup Rugby turns the focus on the stakeholder.
In New Zealand Rugby, three competitions exist within the National Provincial Championship (NPC) level. It is, and has always been, about representing the 27 unions that are within the New Zealand Rugby body.
What has changed more recently, is the emphasis and growth in Women’s rugby. So as well as the Mitre 10 Cup, the Farah Palmer Cup is represented across 12 teams. They are both played alongside the Heartland Championship, which includes the remaining rural provinces, to complete the national competitions.
With a great choice, and sides who are both exciting and passionate, proud and respectful. Those emotions and values, are exactly what the championships all wish to demonstrate. Fans who shout and cheer, those who sit and study the statistics, and those who follow friends and family.
ROUND 1⃣ | The 2⃣0⃣1⃣8⃣ #Mitre10Cup kicks off this week with @HarbourRugby hosting @RugbyNorthland and on Friday night we see a replay of last years 2017 Premiership final with @TasmanMako taking on @crfu. How is your team looking?#Ours pic.twitter.com/cX6pDtmbMd
— Mitre 10 Cup (@Mitre10Cup) August 12, 2018
Mitre 10 Cup Rugby brings the game to the nation
Now that Super Rugby has passed, the five New Zealand franchises have dispersed. Many players have gone from the big centers to now representing their neighbourhoods. It is that simple. The full circle; playing club rugby, representative, professional and amateur grade, up to the All Blacks or Black Ferns level. But it is the grassroots level, where many begin, and some will in fact finish their roles in the game.
This season, that see’s Wyatt Crockett shift from the championship winning Crusaders, to head several hundred kilometers north, to represent Tasman. He is just one of many who do the same, but it was the call by a highly respected All Black, to not take the ‘retirement route’ and the riches on offer in French Rugby. Commendable, and hopefully an inspiration to others.
And fans react to those examples. When Piri Weepu played for Horowhenua-Kapiti, the interest boomed with higher attendance at the ground. And the same will apply when returning-All Black Dane Coles runs out for Wellington – at home grounds, and at those teams away fixtures.
So when looking at the fixtures for both the men and women, names stand out. It is where new All Black Jackson Hemopo (see main photo) emerged from the Manawatu Turbos, and for the Highlanders.
Farah Palmer Cup players too, will be surrounded by high performing Women’s World Cup winning players. Stacey Waaka at Waikato, Selica Winiata running out for Manawatu and or Aldora Itunu in the Auckland side. Their presence will inspire team mates and opponents, who can measure themselves and aim to use rugby as a pathway to success.
— Super Rugby Fans (@SuperRugbyFans) July 11, 2018
Mitre 10 Cup/Heartland Rugby/Farah Palmer Cup – 2018 fixtures
Fans can now take a breath, as they plan for the next game to reach their region. In many towns, that will be a well attended weekend, where the town embraces an Mitre 10 Cup Rugby, Heartland Championship or Farah Palmer Cup game. It can be a big event, and on some occasions, FPC matches are curtain raisers for feature Mitre 10 Cup rugby games.
Mitre 10 Cup draw – click here
Farah Palmer Cup draw – click here
Heartland Championship draw – click here.
The competition has seen many warm-up games give rural fans a taste of the upcoming action. So in small towns across New Zealand, the provinces will again enjoy the close contact with players. No large security guards halting access to the field post match, which is a wonderful part of the grassroots experience.
Even though the quality may not reach the standards of an International fixture. But for the provincial rugby fan, it is as much about their team beating the opposition, as much for the enjoyment and delight that the schedule brings – a win just makes the afternoon or evening that much better.
Mitre 10 Cup rugby begins on Thursday, August 16 – Harbour v Northland.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images