Thompson’s Passion For Tigers And League Burns Bright
As the Papanui Tigers prepare for Saturday’s elimination final against the Linwood Keas, local identity and passionate rugby league supporter Nigel Thompson reflects on the club’s resurgence over the last three years of success and provides some thoughts on the direction the game is heading in Canterbury.
Photo: Nigel Thompson (right) with Papanui Tigers coach Shane Endacott in 2015.
By Nigel Thompson
If you told me after the Tigers were humiliated a weekly basis in the 2012 season that by the end of this year we would have had three years of competing at the highest level I would have taken it.
A grand final win and the Massetti Cup in 2015, a preliminary final appearance in 2016 and progressing to the season’s penultimate weekend again this year – and possibly another decider – is more than I could have dreamed of for the Tigers.
When I arrived at Papanui we were really struggling; we had very few senior players, gaping holes in our juniors and no youth grades coming through to fill the voids in our seniors.
The 2013 and ’14 campaigns were about rebuilding numbers – with no juniors coming through we had to recruit, as at the time that’s what the other strong clubs were doing. We either had to jump on-board or be content with being a bottom-four team.
I’ve always believed success breeds success and in 2016, after our first premiership win in 17 years the previous season, we managed to field a team in every grade, which was hugely rewarding. In 2017, for the first time in the past six years we have seen three Papanui juniors graduate to play for our premiers.
It’s a tough competition and some clubs struggle. After 17 lean years we had to try something different to try and win the grand final. I’ve always admired the way Hornby Panthers operate: successful on the field and successful off it.
Over the last few seasons it has been satisfying to be competing with the likes of the Hornby and Linwood. Although we go in as underdogs, I believe Tigers are a chance tomorrow against the Keas. We haven’t scored a point against them this year, they are a well-coached team and they play some good, tough footy – but if we can bring it all together, we are a chance.
I have stepped down from my hands-on commitments at Papanui this year but I am still, of course, a massive fan of the Tigers and passionate about our game, not only sponsoring Papanui Tigers but other clubs, teams and players.
I believe in investing in the youth grades, because that is where we struggle and where we can improve. Working in conjunction with Canterbury Rugby League, I have some ideas for 2018 to try and grow the game in the region.
I love rugby league, and whilst I have been vocal about some aspects surrounding our game of late, I am extremely confident in what Canterbury Rugby League CEO Shane Collins is trying to achieve. We have had a few meetings recently and Shane has some fantastic ideas, and is also very passionate about what she is doing.
If others jump on the same page, the future for rugby league in Canterbury will be bright. We have some great people in our game – Frank Endacott and Jeff Whittaker and the rest of the football committee are doing a fantastic job and working well with the CEO – and I am sure other changes being made at board level and administration level will improve things further in 2018.
We have a great product in rugby league, but it’s about how we ensure everyone else comes to realise that. I think it’s important all clubs get behind the upcoming Rockcote Canterbury Bulls campaign in the NZRL Premiership as well – they are our local identity on the national stage.
Win or lose tomorrow, I’m happy with what the Tigers have achieved and will be there cheering for my club – and continuing to throw my weight behind rugby league – in 2018.