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Juniors Loving their Rugby at Taka!

It's no secret that the team at Channel Magazine love highlighting the good things happening in our community. They don't come much better than the Takapuna Rugby Club. For close to 80 years the club has been making a massive contribution to the local community. Aidan Bennett takes a look…

The pleasing aspect for those who love the club is that based on current junior numbers this looks like it will continue for decades to come – well past the century mark.
This year the junior numbers are up significantly, with 16 teams, including a record five J8 teams – the grade where juniors start as five year olds. In fact, the Saturday morning in mid-April that Channel visited the club, the youngsters were having a ball. And the tuck shop – manned by volunteers and parents – was busy serving the youngsters sausages and hot drinks (coffee for the parents), as has been the tradition on Saturday mornings for decades at Onewa Domain. With funds raised going straight back in to the club to support the junior club and their tours.
"It makes the effort all worthwhile when you see the numbers of junior players we have growing and that they are having so much fun," says present Club Chairman Simon Cheesman, who got involved with the club on the junior committee when his own kids started playing a few years ago. "This is a real family club which is why I love being involved. It is also great that we are getting so many ex-players back involved with the club through coaching their kids in these junior grades."
A tradition that Takapuna junior players also look forward to is the club's bi-annual trip to Australia. During the mid year school holidays, a group of 25-40 junior players undertake a tour to Australia. This is a trip that Takapuna Junior Rugby has been making every two years since 1984 – an astonishing 29 years ago. The team always plays against the Manly Marlins in Sydney and then travels north for a match on the Gold Coast. In the alternate years, when 'Taka' don't travel, the Manly Marlins bring a squad over the Tasman to play at Onewa Domain.
"It's a great experience for the boys," says Simon Cheesman. "There are players in our senior squads who made the trip a long time ago and it would have played a part in their development."
Takapuna Rugby Club members range in age from five years right through to 90 years. The 90 year old member is well-known North Shore identity Charlie Bancroft who still has two grandsons playing at the club after playing himself way back when the club was founded in the 1930's.
"We have 600-700 members all up and also host 50 teams/up to 700 players a week in our popular Thursday night Touch Module," adds Simon Cheesman. "So the club is always a hive of activity."
The club's under 85kg senior team is currently very strong and the Premier (senior) team is consistently a leader in the North Harbour competition. In addition there is a Colts Reserve grade team (under 20), a Colts team (under 21), a Premier Reserves team (senior B) and two very active – and social – President's teams, that are all about fun and the aftermatch.
"We are fortunate that our central location makes us a popular club for players," says Cheesman. "Having AUT just up the road and some great rugby schools close by, we tend to get a good number of youngsters wanting to play for a club that boasts such a proud name and history."
The current Takapuna Premier team is coached by former North Harbour prop Adrian Donald, who for the 2013 season has been joined by successful Under 21 coaches Kenny Addison and Tony Fraser. The club is the home of current Blues Hooker James Parsons as well as North Harbour Players Sam Hayes-Stevenson, Chris Smith, James Semple and Brenton Helleur.
Takapuna has had six All Blacks over the years – Greg Burgess, Blair Larsen, Graham Dowd, Glen Osborne, Stu Conn and Eric Rush.
While Taka has been the dominant club since the inception of the Harbour Union in the mid 80's – particularly between 1994 and 2008 when 11 senior club championships were won – the Gallaher Shield win in 1980 as part of the entire Auckland competition is arguably it's proudest moment. Members of that team were All Blacks Greg Burgess and Stu Conn as well as other leading players of that era – Mike Mills, Iain Abercrombie, Alwyn Harvey, Steve McCulloch and Gary Brunsdon. Also part of that team was club stalwart and current President/Club Captain Robbie Bremner who we highlight in this issue.

Robbie's giving back big time
For club's the size of Takapuna Rugby to operate they rely on the efforts of a range of volunteers. One of Taka's heroes in this regard is Robbie Bremner.

Robbie first played for Taka as a kid way back in the late 50's. In fact he was part of a celebrated Takapuna junior team that won six championships, totally undefeated, through the grades from age 10 until the ages of 14 and 15. He was also one of the lucky players to be in the first rugby union sanctioned junior team to tour Australia in 1961. They played five matches and Robbie says it was a huge experience for a young fella.
Robbie Bremner loved his rugby and still does. The Westlake Old Boy was good enough to play three games for Auckland, many seasons for the Auckland Second XV and was also a key player when Takapuna Premiers won the famous Gallaher Shield in the Auckland comp back in 1980. He retired in 1984 (after 18 seasons of senior rugby) and concentrated on running his printing business for the best part of two decades, but his love for the game – and the Taka club – fueled his desire to put something back. So he returned to the club committee in 2010 and has been active ever since.
"Having sold my business I had time to contribute and really wanted to play my part," explained Robbie when we caught up with him during April, following a club meeting. "Rugby has been good to me, so I decided to give the club a good five years and I am now half way through it. I get great enjoyment out of contributing."
Robbie, who lives nearby at Sunnynook with his wife Katie, is currently both the President and Club Captain. As well as performing the duties in these roles he is a great organiser who is usually at the club for three to four days a week during the season. His brief includes looking after the gear, the dressing sheds, liaising with coaches and recruitment of players for the respective teams.

Sponsors
In these challenging economic times club's like Takapuna Rugby rely hugely on their valued sponsors. They wish to acknowledge the following key sponsors for 2013 – Giltrap North Shore, Pat's Garage, Speights, Albany Inn, Jetts Fitness, Prestige Realty, Smedley Developments, Canterbury of New Zealand, Wairau Paints, Haydn & Rollett and Hiway Stabilisers.
The team sponsors include but are not limited too... Premiers – Pub Charity, The Albany Inn, Thirsty Liquor, Bartercard, Wairau Paints; U85 - Penberthy Insurance; Colts Reserves (U20) – MCB Builders; Presidents (Guerillas) – Chelsea Sugar / Handle Solutions / Orangebox / Poesy Pizza Bases; Presidents (Turtles) – Francis Travel Marketing & AIM Holidays.

Facilities For Hire
A jewel in the clubs crown is the impressive large clubhouse that was built back in the 70s. It was well ahead of its time and is still a great facility today that continues to host a myriad of events and functions – including business and corporate functions, lunches, weddings, birthdays, 21st's, Rotary fundraisers, trivial pursuits nights etc. The hireage is very reasonable, with other benefits being the large kitchen and bar area, a sizeable dance floor and lots of parking right at the door.
For more information contact the club manager, Terry Healy, Phone 418-4599 or email: takapuna_rugby@xtra.co.nz

by Channel Magazine

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