In response to the declining numbers of junior rugby players in Wellington, two of the city’s oldest rugby clubs have come together to form a new team. The Wellington Football Club and Pōneke Football Club have joined forces to create the Eastern Suburbs Babas team, which will compete in the Wellington year 7/8 open grade.
Last year, the Wellington Football Club saw 70 percent of its squad leave to play for college, while Pōneke’s numbers also dropped, leaving them with enough players for one team but not two. The two clubs decided to collaborate to ensure that their players could continue to participate in the sport they love and build a stronger rugby community in Wellington.
With the support of Pak n Save Kilbirnie and Eastern Suburbs Sports Trust, the Eastern Suburbs Baba team has a combined club jersey, black shorts, and either club socks. The team will also share both clubrooms and hold trainings at each club.
The spirit of the team is inspired by the memory of Misiluni Moananu, who played for both Pōneke and the Wellington Axemen and helped coach teams from both clubs. Moananu passed away in 2019, and the Eastern Suburbs Baba team is dedicated to honouring his legacy.
The collaboration between the Wellington Football Club and Pōneke Football Club is a positive example of how clubs can work together to ensure that young players have the opportunity to participate in rugby. By coming together, the two clubs have created a stronger team that will provide a pathway for junior players to continue playing rugby in Wellington.
The Eastern Suburbs Baba team is yet to find a suitable name, but the team’s players and supporters are excited to see what the future holds. With the support of the wider Wellington rugby community, the team is sure to make a strong impact on the field and continue to inspire young players to take up the sport.
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Regarding the Poneke/ Axemen initiative, the same thing happened years ago when we took our son to register for HOBM, because he was a bigger boy HOBM did not have enough players for the grade. We combined with Stokes Valley RFC and it was a huge success, the next season Avalon joined so it really was a true Hutt Valley side,and it was a great success