Dr Henry Thacker

Papanui Tigers make the journey to the West Coast this weekend to take on ISC Canterbury Cup leaders Greymouth Greyhounds on Saturday, providing the perfect opportunity to revitalise competition for the hallowed Thacker Shield.

The hallowed prize was donated in 1913 by Dr Henry Thacker, who was instrumental in setting up Canterbury Rugby League a year earlier and its first president, as well as serving as a Member of Parliament and mayor of Christchurch.

Originally contested on a national basis – with Sydenham defeating North Shore in the inaugural 1913 match – the rules were later amended to make the Thacker Shield only contestable by South Island clubs, before becoming purely a symbol of Canterbury-West Coast club supremacy from the late-1920s.

The clash lapsed during the 2000s but was reinvigorated in the 2010s, with Canterbury’s club champions taking on a West Coast representative combination.

Traditionally an annual one-off contest, the Thacker Shield will become a more regular feature on the CRL club schedule.

Following Saturday’s showdown between the Greyhounds and Tigers, the holders will be obliged to put up the Shield at every home game (excluding finals and promotion/relegation matches). Meanwhile, if the holders are promoted or relegated, the Shield goes with them.

“It is exciting to see the reintroduction of the Thacker Shield, and more so that it will be initially played for on the West Coast this weekend,” Canterbury Rugby League CEO Malcolm Humm says.

“With the Shield carrying so much prestige and history between Canterbury and the West Coast it seems appropriate that the first challenge be between a long-standing Canterbury club in the Papanui Tigers and the Greymouth Greyhounds.

“It is also great to see men’s senior competition games return to Wingham Park. Canterbury Rugby League wants to support West Coast Rugby League with the growth of our great game on the other side of the Southern Alps and we view this as one strategy to help achieve this. We thank Southern Zone for there support with this as well.”

Runanga became the first West Coast team to win the Thacker Shield in 1931, downing Addington at Monica Park in the first of three straight victories for the club.

Blackball (1945-47) and Greymouth Marist (1959-61 and 1965-67) matched the threepeat feat, while Runanga did it again from 1968-70.

During the club’s dominant era in the CRL competition, Papanui won the Thacker Shield on five straight occasions: 1972-74 and 1976-77, with no match played in 1975.

The Tigers last won the Thacker Shield in March 2016, when the reigning CRL premiers defeated West Coast Chargers 38-20. The Chargers claimed a memorable 28-22 win over Linwood Keas in Greymouth the following season.

Papanui has won two of its three ISC Canterbury Cup fixtures so far in 2023 and racked up a 46-4 win over Burnham Chevaliers last weekend. But it shapes as a tough road trip to the Coast for the Tigers on Saturday, with the Greyhounds scoring 172 points to just four conceded in emphatic wins over the Chevaliers, Eastern Eagles and Northern Bulldogs so far.

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