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Harlequins pull out of Marlborough Premier rugby


For the first time since the club’s inception in 1994, there will be no Harlequins team in premier rugby ranks this season.

The Quins have decided not to field a premier team in either the Marlborough sub-union competition or Tasman Trophy competition after weighing up their available resources for the forthcoming season. They will enter a side in the division two competition.

Harlequins’ acting chairman Greg Newman said the "writing was on the wall” at the end of the 2017 season when the club were forced to default games due to lack of player numbers.

"We had struggled through the season with primarily a division two side playing in premier … the numbers just weren’t there.

"We certainly had every intention of putting a premier side on the park this year but we couldn’t get any commitment from the existing group of players to play at that level. Trying to resource a whole team from outside of the area was beyond us at this stage … so we see 2018 as a season where we will play division two rugby and hopefully field a competitive side there, with guys who actually want to play division two rugby.

"We will look to rebuild from there … we will look to recruit a pretty good coach that we can use in a rugby development role, and hopefully attract a few players from outside the district also.”

Newman said he had met with Mako coach Leon MacDonald and Tasman Rugby Union officials to discuss the club’s situation and he felt they all parties wanted Harlequins back in the premier competition as quickly as possible, but admitted the onus was on the club itself to remedy the situation.

Since the club came into being 24-years ago through the amalgamation of the Old Boys, Opawa and Redwood clubs it has enjoyed plenty of success and has produced many outstanding performers. Four All Blacks (MacDonald, David Hill, Tim Perry and Atu Moli) have worn the multi-coloured jersey, plus Maori All Black and Highlanders TV personality Joe Wheeler and several other Super Rugby players including Tristan Moran, Viliami Lolohea, Andrew Makalio and Hayden Cripps.

Harlequins has a strong junior section, with plenty of parental support, and the club is in good heart, according to Newman. "The core people are in place but, don’t get me wrong, we have a bloody big challenge in front of us.”

Tasman Rugby Union chief executive officer Tony Lewis said that while he was "extremely disappointed” Harlequins had pulled out of premier ranks, their decision "gave everyone an opportunity to take a couple of deep breaths and work out how [the union] can assist Harlequins to get themselves operationally back on board within a year”.

"That’s our aim. It was only two years ago that both Awatere and Renwick were struggling and we worked very hard with both clubs. They opened up their doors and welcomed us in, got good people in good positions and they have managed to get themselves off the floor.

"So we are hoping this opportunity will be the same with Harlequins.”