TASMAN MAKO HISTORY

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.