Rockcote Canterbury Bulls Launch 2017 Campaign In Style
Photos: Kevin Clarke – CMG Sports
Rockcote’s Ray Whittaker summed it up perfectly when he said, “it seems like only yesterday we were here for another team announcement” – but after a whirlwind year, Hornby Workingmen’s Club again hosted the Rockcote Canterbury Bulls’ season launch on Wednesday night.
After a welcome from CRL Board Deputy Chairperson Sabrina Kunz, the crowd was treated to a very special performance by the Burnham Bilingual Unit.
The youngsters sang several beautiful waiatas, and capped off the performance with a stirring haka that would have had Paul Gallen shaking in his boots.
Whittaker then spoke on behalf of Rockcote ahead of its fourth NZRL National Premiership campaign as the Canterbury Bulls’ principal sponsor.
“We’re proud to be sponsors of the Bulls,” Whittaker said.
“You guys have done us proud every year, and gone from strength to strength with the support of the coaches, managers and Canterbury Rugby League.
“I’m sure Andrew will have you prepared well for the season and the results will be as good as they were last year, if not better.
“It’s a short, sharp season, so enjoy it.”
Rockcote Canterbury Bulls coach Andrew Auimatagi – fresh off a hectic month that included guiding Linwood Keas to a second straight CRL grand final triumph, overseeing Bulls trial matches and coaching St Thomas of Canterbury College’s New Zealand Secondary School Tournament trip to Auckland – gave a typically passionate address to the gathering.
“The Bulls’ brand is an important one for us here in Canterbury,” Auimatagi said.
“Our campaign is built on legacy, on tradition. A big part of (assistant coach) Jed (Lawrie) and my job is to educate the guys about how important the jersey is.
“We think our core values of pride, unity, integrity and grit are going to steer us well in this campaign, as they did last year.
“Without (our sponsors), our players wouldn’t have the opportunity to showcase their skills on the national stage, so a big thank-you for your support.
“I also want to acknowledge (CEO) Shane Collins and CRL for their support behind the scenes in getting the campaign off the ground.
“We’re really looking forward to representing the province, and we hope to do you guys pride.”
A large chunk of last year’s squad have moved on from Canterbury or have retired from representative duties, but Auimatagi expressed confidence in his new-look squad’s ability to bring home the Bulls’ first national title since 2014.
“I’m really excited about the bunch we’ve assembled this year. It’s pretty different group to what we had last year, which I think will be a good thing for us going into this campaign,” the coach said.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of energy, and a lot of talent to top it all off.
“The attitude and commitment has been really impressive so far, and I think assembling as a wider squad in May and then checking up every month will serve us well.”
Auimatagi had one final message for his players:
“You represent your clubs really well, you’re ambassadors for your clubs, but most of all the game of rugby league here in Canterbury.
“Wear the colours with pride, as we’ve talked about, and I’m sure you guys will do well living our values.”
Whittaker presented each of the 2017 Rockcote Canterbury Bulls players with their new BLK jerseys, before the ‘Meet the Bulls’ team video was given its first airing, showcasing the players’ light-hearted side.
The Rockcote Canterbury Bulls’ 2017 NZRL National Premiership schedule gets underway on Sunday at 2pm against the Counties Manukau Stingrays at Christchurch’s AMI Stadium, with entry free for kids and just $5 for adults.
The remaining round-robin games are against Waikato at FMG Stadium in Hamilton on Sunday, September 24 and against Akarana at Trust Stadium in Auckland on Saturday, September 30.
The top two qualifiers will square off in the Premiership final on Saturday, October 7 at Mt Smart Stadium.