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About Tasman Rugby Union

Background – a recent history based on a proud heritage

The Tasman Rugby Union was formed in December 2005 as an amalgamation of the Nelson Bays and Marlborough Rugby Unions, thereby becoming New Zealand’s newest provincial union.

The newly formed Union assumed responsibility for the delivery and administration of grass roots rugby at junior level schools & clubs and senior clubs across the top of the South Island (Te Tau Ihu) from the Marlborough and Nelson Bays Rugby Unions.

The Marlborough Union had been founded in 1888. Known as the “Red Devils”, Marlborough rugby has a proud heritage including holding the storied Ranfurly Shield for six defences in 1973-4.

The Nelson Bays Union aka “the Griffins” was founded in 1968, itself an amalgamation of the Nelson and Golden Bays-Motueka Rugby Unions. Nelson had been founded in 1885 (becoming the nation’s sixth provincial union) and Golden Bays-Motueka in 1920.

Nelson is The Home of Rugby in New Zealand, being where the first ever competitive rugby match took place in May 1870 at The Botanics between a Nelson College side and Nelson Football Club.

Community Rugby – looking after the grass-roots.

The Union’s Charter is to provide an infrastructure and environment that fosters the perpetual development and enjoyment of rugby within the Tasman region. The game comes first, everything else comes second.

The Union manages the delivery and administration of grass roots rugby for 220 teams at 33 affiliated schools and clubs in the region, a total of 6,100 players and 50 referees. Rugby is the region’s leading team sport.

This is achieved by a small but dedicated team of employed managers, rugby development officers and administrators based in Nelson and Blenheim.

Representative Rugby – providing a pathway to a Black Jersey

The Union also facilitates pathways and development for participants to achieve higher honours including Marlborough, Nelson Bays & Tasman age grade and senior teams, Tasman Mako men & women teams, Super Rugby and NZ representation.

In its short history the Union has locally developed ~

  • 7 All Blacks
  • 11 Maori All Blacks
  • 8 All Black Sevens
  • 13 NZ Under 20’s
  • 9 NZ Secondary Schools
  • 3 Black Ferns Sevens

This pathway and development was especially fulfilled in September 2018, when the Tasman Rugby Union and the City of Nelson hosted the First Ever All Blacks Test in Nelson at Trafalgar Park. The Test against Argentina was played in front of a Sold Out 'pop up' stadium of 21,404 all-seated fans. Two local Tasman players featured in the All Blacks 46-24 victory - Shannon Frizell who started at blindside breakaway, scored a try and was named man of the match, and loose head prop Tim Perry who came off the bench.

TASMAN RUGBY UNION Officials (2006 – 2020)

Year President Chairman CEO Head Coach Captain Life Members
2006 John Goodman Max Spence Lee Germon Dennis Brown Ti'i Paulo
2007 John Goodman Max Spence Lee Germon Dennis Brown Alex Ainley
2008 Kelly Landon Lane Nick Patterson Peter Barr Todd Blackadder Andrew Goodman
2009 Kelly Landon Lane Nick Patterson Peter Barr Kieran Keane Andrew Goodman
2010 Duncan McKenzie Nick Patterson Peter Barr Kieran Keane Chris Jack
2011 Duncan McKenzie Nick Patterson Peter Barr Kieran Keane Andrew Goodman
2012 Trevor Gilmore Nick Patterson Andrew Flexman Kieran Keane Andrew Goodman
2013 Trevor Gilmore Ken Beams Andrew Flexman Kieran Keane Shane Christie Max Spence
2014 Shane Drummond Ken Beams Tony Lewis Kieran Keane Shane Christie
2015 Shane Drummond Ken Beams Tony Lewis Kieran Keane Shane Christie Kieran Keane
2016 John Tapp Ken Beams Tony Lewis Leon MacDonald Shane Christie
2017 John Tapp Ken Beams Tony Lewis Leon MacDonald Alex Ainley
2018 Ramon Sutherland Wayne Young Tony Lewis Leon MacDonald David Havili Shane Drummond
2019 Ramon Sutherland Wayne Young Tony Lewis Andrew Goodman / Clarke Dermody David Havili
2020 Wayne Young Tony Lewis Andrew Goodman / Clarke Dermody TBC
TRU Board
Chair Wayne Young Marlborough
Tony Healey Nelson Bays
Scott Ford  Independent
Gary Knowles Independent
Dayveen Stephens Independent
Johnny Joseph Marlborough
Tony Peacock Nelson Bays
TRU Staff
Tony Lewis   Chief Executive Officer
Koren Grason Business Capability Manager
Les Edwards Commercial & Marketing Manager 
Graeme Taylor Commercial Manager - Blenheim      
Lisa McKay Administration Accounts Assistant
Community Rugby
Kahu Marfell Community Pathways & Operations Manager 
Mark Cochrane Game Development Manager
George Vance Age Grade Coordinator & Women's Academy Manager
Dan Monaghan Game Development Officer (Marlborough)
Wendy Lindstrom Game Development Administrator
Lisa McKay Community Rugby Administrator
Dave Paterson Referee Education Officer 
Nevin Price  Community Rugby Analyst 
High Performance
Martyn Vercoe Mako Team Manager
Andrew Goodman Co-Head Coach 
Clarke Dermody Co-Head Coach 
Shane Christie Assistant Coach (Defense)
Gray Cornelius Assistant Coach (Skills)
Chris Goodman Crusaders Academy Manager
Jimmy Holden Head of Strength & Conditioning
Dan Monaghan Strength & Conditioning - Marlborough
Kurt Harrington Physiotherapist
David Mangnall Personal Development Manager 
Nevin Price Rugby Analyst
Robbie Salton Strength & Conditioning - Women
Nick Dewar Tasman RU Doctor
Kelsey Paterson Tasman RU Nutritionist

The Tasman Mako (2006 ~ 2011) – troubled beginnings and difficult times.

The formation of the Tasman Rugby Union was primarily driven to allow the region to field a team – the Tasman Mako - in the 14-team premier 2006 national provincial competition (the NPC).

On the field Tasman finished their inaugural season in 12th spot with three of wins and in 2007 won two for 11th spot. They were disappointing records, but there were signs of on-field competitiveness - if the Union could just stay afloat.

In 2008, the Union's bankers, BNZ, advised that due to reneged loan repayments, Lansdowne Park in Blenheim would need to be sold. It was bought by the Marlborough District Council to ensure it remained a recreational area and rugby ground for the region.

The loss of Marlborough Rugby’s prized asset hurt many rugby supporters in Marlborough who wanted out of the amalgamation.

To survive the recently appointed Union CEO, Peter Barr, set about cutting costs, including a self-imposed salary cap, a reduction in contracted players from 55 to 28 and lowered funding for representative programmes.

Despite the off-field turmoil, Tasman finished in 7th spot on the back of four wins.

Tasman's future grew even murkier when the NZRU announced a proposed reduction in 2009 of the NPC from 14 teams to 12. Tasman was now under attack from outside and within.

TRU sent Barr, chairman Max Spence and coach Todd Blackadder to Wellington to make a last-ditch plea to the NZ Rugby to save their fledgling Union.

NZR CEO Steve Tew took notice and the Makos were given a stay of execution - with the proviso they sort out their infighting and their finances.

As NZR's deadline to prove themselves financially sound loomed, a rescue package arrived from benefactors, later be revealed to be a consortium of the Marlborough District Council, Nelson City, the Crusaders and Nelson Pine Industries, a long-time commercial partner of Nelson Bays and Tasman Rugby.

In 2009, on the back of financial difficulties for the smaller Unions and pressure by the larger Unions, NZ Rugby again decided to reduce the competition, this time to 10 teams. Tasman looked sure to be culled.

An outcry of public support for Tasman was highlighted by a "Save the Mako" campaign, including presentation to a petition signed by 14,000 supporters in Nelson and Marlborough keen on keeping their team in the top division.

The outpouring of support from fans in the smaller Unions persuaded Tew and NZ Rugby to maintain the 14-team competition from 2010 onwards.

In 2009 Tasman won six matches to secure 9th spot, and in 2010 the team secured 12th spot with 4 wins.

2011 was the lowest point for the Union with just two wins and a last placed 14th position on the table. There was now only one way for the team to go. Simultaneously, on the back of a successful Rugby World Cup in NZ, the Union received funds from NZ Rugby that finally put an end to the Union’s deficit.

The Tasman Mako (2012 ~ current) – the rise and rise of a new force.

The coaches of the 2011 team, former All Blacks Kieran Keane and Leon MacDonald, were both proud and fiercely competitive local rugby men. They went to newly appointed CEO Andrew Flexman and demanded investment in some quality players from outside the region to complement very talented local players for the 2012 season.

Relatively established local players such as Robbie Malneek, Joe Wheeler, Quentin MacDonald, Andrew Goodman, Shane Christie and Tom Marshall were joined by exciting new talent like Liam Squire, Tim Perry, James Lowe and Kieron Fonotia.

Added to the mix were experienced recruits such as Campbell Johnstone, Bryce Heem, Tevita Cavubati and Peter Betham, plus a young Canterbury loan player, Jordan Taufua.

The team played attractive rugby and made the semi-finals of the Championship division, losing to Otago but showing significant promise for the future.

In 2013 many of these players, joined now by the likes of Marty Banks, Billy Guyton and solid props Sila Puafisi and Siosiua Halanukonuka, really hit their straps making the Championship Cup Final.

On a big occasion at Trafalgar Park, Nelson the Tasman Mako prevailed over Hawkes Bay to complete a rapid rise from the competition cellar and earn promotion into the Premiership division.

Subsequently, under the leadership of CEO Tony Lewis, Tasman have made the Final in 2014, 2016 and 2017 and the semi-finals in 2015 and 2018.

The major competitive breakthrough for the Union came in December 2018 with the winning of the National Sevens Championship title in Taupo, and in October 2019 with the Tasman Mako being crowned the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership winners after an Undefeated 12 game season. The team was superbly captained by David Havili under the coaching helm of Andrew Goodman & Clarke Dermody, Shane Christie & Gray Cornelius.

The team continues to capture the hearts and minds of fans locally, nationally and beyond, by playing an adventurous brand of rugby.

On-field performance has also been reflected in the numbers of Mako players receiving Super contracts, consistently now at about 20 players per season, and the numbers going on to earn higher representative honours including All Blacks Sevens, Maori All Blacks and All Blacks selection.

Since 2016, seven players have played Test rugby for New Zealand – Liam Squire (All Black # 1151), Kane Hames (# 1152), David Havili (# 1161), Tim Perry (# 1162), Atunaisa Moli (# 1168), Shannon Frizell (# 1172), Tyrel Lomax (#1180).

None of these achievements would be possible without a vast array of financial support, from NZ Rugby, our Sponsors, Members and season ticket purchasers, and our community trust fund and gaming fund partners.

After 14 years of existence, the Tasman Rugby Union is successful and innovative, aspiring to be a Top 4 national provincial Union, by any criteria.