The only club involved in the Canterbury Cup that doesn’t also boast a team in the Massetti Cup, the Shirley Hawks are used to punching above their weight.

Shirley have two senior teams, featuring in the Canterbury Cup and Divison One. After a lengthy battle to get into premier reserves competition – with opposition to their inclusion in some quarters – they have continued to exceed expectations since entering last year.

The Hawks were Canterbury Cup semi-finalists last year and currently sit in second place on the ladder.

Shirley struggle with obtaining young players at the club. After the earthquakes, they lost a chunk of their junior players and are still battling to recruit and retain players.

Another contributing factor is young Shirley players can’t strive to play top-grade footy at the club.

Hawks Canterbury Cup coach Paul Lynch says he is disappointed to see rep players from the club leave to follow other coaches and play for the top clubs.

“Last year we peaked with seven schoolboy sides, (but) we have struggled a bit this year.

“And to be honest all our players that have played representative football have been hooked by other coaches to go across and play at the clubs, which we are a bit anti against,” Lynch said.

Despite being entrenched in the top four, Lynch says his Canterbury Cup side isn’t playing the level of football they want so far this year. He is crossing his fingers for a kinder run with injuries after a busy casualty ward rattled their run to the finals last year.

Linwood currently sit on top of table, four points clear of the Hawks. But for a club recently introduced into a highly competitive grade, they have proved many critics wrong.

“We are our own little team that likes to our own little thing, concentrate on what we can concentrate on ourselves,” Lynch said.

“We don’t like to let other sides affect us, we just like to concentrate on our game. We have got a good bunch of boys with us for the last five odd years, they are just homegrown Shirley kids.”

Lynch says in the club’s 60-year history they haven’t had a team in the top grade but he is confident it won’t be too far away.

Hawks president Bernie Katene says that once there is some stability in the senior sides and they have some structure in their youth set-up, the club will be more than ready to compete in the Massetti Cup ranks.

“Well definitely every young fella likes to play premiers, whereas Canterbury Cup is just below it.

“Unless we have a premier side the (Shirley) youth don’t have an opportunity to have a crack at it. The Canterbury Cup isn’t even the pinnacle of (other clubs). At this stage, it is (for the Hawks) because it is our highest side. But if we had a premier side, well then who knows. Until we get one up there, only time will tell, they club will just grow,” Katene said.

What makes the Shirley Hawks special is the camaraderie around the community. Coach Lynch credits his club’s volunteer work and says the club prides itself on having a family-focused culture.

“We like to consider ourselves as very family-orientated club,” he said.

“I suppose our success and growth so far has been how we really care about our members and do our best to help our members out. I think that’s why we have had such a successful run with our Canterbury Cup and Div One sides.”

“If they have games at home, making sure they have something to eat back in the clubrooms – just the little things off the field our making us successful.”

The Shirley Hawks are a club going from strength to strength. It was an arm-wrestle for them to get into the Canterbury Cup, with no shortage of doubters their foray would be a success, but Lynch says they use that as motivation. So far, that motivation has seen them reach the top four in their first crack and push for a finals berth again this season.

“I think our sole focus is to see what we can do as a Canterbury Cup side as a club and if we can keep improving then we’d look to challenge ourselves,” Lynch said.

“We did lose a lot of players going to play for their rep coaches, which was a bit disappointing. We had to rebuild again so it has been a bit of a tough year getting our schoolboys together.

“We just want to keep building on that area because it’s a re-growing area after the earthquakes, so we want to do everything positive in the area to bring more kids to our club.”

Being in the upper reaches of the Canterbury Rugby League scene isn’t something this club takes lightly; both the president and coach believe the Hawks can go one more step further and field a team in the top flight.

The club is no stranger to adversity and the Hawks have vowed to keep battling past any hurdles.

“When we had premier Bs back in the old days, they took it off us because we never had 19s or 18s,” Katene said.

“To have two seniors side in Canterbury Cup and Div One, it is very important to the club and the community itself to keep building our juniors so they have something to look up to.

“We have been second-rated over the last eight-to-10 years. It’s a big eye-opener for us, especially for the community and the club.”

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