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Grassroots key to Axemen’s successful comeback

Sep 6th, 2013 | By | Category: Featured Article, Features, Sport, Student Features

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FIVE years ago the Wellington Football Club was in danger of collapse, but thanks to a true grassroots effort the club has seen a successful return to top-tier club rugby.

Losing Premier status, a rapidly falling numbers of players and a lack of finances had meant the club, known as The Axemen, had been out of Premier Rugby for almost 20 years, falling as far as the Senior 2 Grade.

Four years ago, they sought some much needed rejuvenation which came in the form of new board members motivated by former Axeman and All Black Murray Mexted.

Together, they worked out a five year plan to restore their club to be contenders for the Premier Jubilee Cup.

Club captain Scott Fuller, along with Duncan Domett, said a main part of revitalising the club was to work from the ground up and to create a strong base, which was initially achieved by building up the Under 21 team.

The Wellington Football Club has also invested in developing strong players and coaches through scholarships to the International Rugby Academy of New Zealand.

In an email to past and present players, director of rugby Murray Mexted said “there is no doubt that one of the components of a successful club is to invest in your own people and develop them to a higher level”.

Fuller said as well as focusing on up-skilling those already in the club, they used word-of-mouth to attract new players and then making sure their good club players stayed with the team for three years.

The club had relied upon volunteers to revive their club and tried and true fundraising methods such as membership fees, raffles and hiring out their facilities, along with support from Community Trusts.

Their investment in the club has begun to pay off as 2013 marked the long awaited return to Premier rugby.

In this division, they reached the final of the Hardham cup this year, but lost to Norths 26-16.

They acknowledge that this year the odds were stacked against them

“No one has won the Hardham Cup after being promoted from Senior 1. We were looking to make history,” Fuller said.

Despite losing the final, the Axemen remain in Premier Rugby for the next season, and their next goal is to win the Jubilee Cup.

“Once you go down, we know how hard it is to fight your way back,” said Fuller.

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Images: Greg Hughes

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