You could say the revival of the Union senior team is a New Zealand country rugby fairy tale.
Thirty years since the club last fielded a team in a senior grade, Union is back on the field in North Otago rugby.
It has not taken the almighty step of leaping back into premier ranks – even fairytales have their limits – but the club has committed to being part of president’s grade for the whole season.
Union, based in Ngapara, last fielded a senior rugby team in 1988, after which it joined neighbours Enfield and Weston Pirates to form the Valley club, based in Weston.
Union retained a separate junior identity – four or five young teams each year kept the black, gold and red jersey going – but until now had not been able or willing to have a men’s team.
“To be honest, it’s been an idea for the last couple of years,” Union jack-of-all-trades Peter Stackhouse told the Oamaru Mail
“Some of the guys were saying, ‘Let’s start a team, let’s start a team’. We weren’t sure we had enough players, but they kept niggling away.
“A lot of them played schoolboy rugby for Union, so there’s a link there. Other guys are in the district and just want to play a bit of rugby.
“They want to have fun – they don’t want to play premier rugby. Some of them didn’t even play rugby last year. They’ve come back because they want to play for Union.”
The team has just one training a week as most of the players are flat out with rural jobs.
There is a range of ages, from recent school leavers to a couple of older types to Stackhouse himself, who might pull on the boots if required.
Hooker Jacob Butler, straight out of the Waitaki Boys’ High School First XV, is an example of a former Union junior who is relishing the opportunity to keep playing for the club.
Shane Johnstone, Simon Conlan and Ben Rapson are others to have come through the junior ranks.
Union has a classic country home ground, and Stackhouse is looking forward to the prospect of the senior men getting a game to tie in with schoolboy rugby.
The return of Union and the collapse of parent club Valley’s team in president’s grade should not be linked, Stackhouse said.
“We haven’t recruited any players from any other clubs. If they’ve come, they’ve come under their own steam.
“We want all clubs to be strong.”
Union had not thought beyond this season and had no lofty goals in terms of results, Stackhouse said.