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Growing league sitting pretty at Sportshouse

Apr 15th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, Sport

WELLINGTON Rugby League is enjoying the fruits of rising numbers and being able to put a professional face on its operations.

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UP FOR GRABS: General manager Jason Hemson holds the Appleton Shield which is contested in the senior men's premier grade championship.

It has been almost two years since the league joined 15 sporting organisations as tenants of the purpose-built Pelorus Trust Sportshouse at Hutt Park, Seaview and general manager Jason Hemson is clear the move has played a part in its success.

He is happy to consign to memory the cold, damp and dark premises at the former Corodale Rugby League clubrooms in Petone.

In its place the professional facilities at Sportshouse have been used to host or organise events which have raised Wellington’s league profile.

They include last month’s New Zealand Rugby League community league training camp, led by Reuben Wiki, with 265 children and 60 coaches, a two-day training camp with 2009 NRL champions Melbourne Storm in December at Wainuiomata and a visit by Warriors coaching staff and training camp at Porirua. 

Hemson says the joint services at Sportshouse have benefited the organisation financially and administratively and combined with support from the national league body, Sport and Recreation New Zealand and Sport Wellington it is aiming for continued growth.

He makes no secret of the fact the league sees itself in direct competition with the Wellington Rugby Union.
 
“The reality is we are competing against the rugby union, who have 15 paid development officers, we have half of one, so that is one of our biggest challenges.”

While having flash new premises is helping, the sport still relies on its volunteer roots.

“Rugby league has always been able to do great things on very little resources, and we have great people within our clubs who are prepared to get the dirty and dig in.”

Hemson is expecting more than 2600 players to register this year, up from 2390 last year and 1897 in 2008.

That number will include about 300 college students in the third year of the Stephen Kearney Cup. In its first year, 2008, it attracted eight colleges to compete and in 2009 had 15 colleges.  It has been successful because it starts after college rugby finishes, and so attracts union players.

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is a journalist in the making, with the aim to become a sports journalist. He enjoys all sports especially rugby league.
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