Whitehead Plumbing & Gas has become synonymous with junior rugby league in Canterbury, providing invaluable support for our game’s youngest participants. This year, the company has expanded its backing to include naming rights sponsorship of the region’s top club competition.

The 2024 season heralds the sixth successive year of the CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Junior Programme – ensuring the locally owned-and-operated company’s familiar presence once again at enthusiasm-filled Saturday mornings at Canterbury Agricultural Park this winter.

“This is for the community … and if we can support the juniors in any way, shape or form, we want to be there,” Whitehead Plumbing & Gas managing director Paul Olsen says.

“I was always hoping to have a long period doing this, I wasn’t coming in to do one or two years.

“We’re proud to have our branding and logos around the area, and [CRL CEO] Malcolm [Humm] and his team have got some really cool ideas for the year.”

Eager to further solidify the relationship and get behind the game at grassroots level, the reintroduced men’s pre-season tournament and the top tier of men’s rugby league in Canterbury will be known as the CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Men’s Pre-Season Competition and the CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Men’s Premiership, respectively.

“As much as doing what we do for the juniors had a feelgood [element] for the community, getting amongst the Men’s Premiership was too good an opportunity for us to not be a part of,” Olsen explains.

“The pre-season competition hasn’t been around for a while and I’m looking forward to see how that goes.”

The company’s involvement with CRL initially stemmed from Olsen, on behalf of Whitehead Plumbing & Gas, making a $1,000 donation for a personalised Canterbury Bulls jersey in 2019 following the team’s historic Ngā Puna Wai clash with the Warriors’ NSW Cup team.

Soon afterwards, Whitehead Plumbing & Gas inked a three-season deal to support junior footy in Canterbury – sticking solid through the COVID-19 years that were so challenging for grassroots sport and business, and subsequently doubling that tenure.

Proudly operating in Canterbury for 45 years, Whitehead Plumbing & Gas currently have a 25-strong staff of plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers. The maintenance firm services all plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying requirements, including light commercial, school fit-outs, bars, restaurants and architectural homes.

“We are delighted to have Whitehead Plumbing & Gas extend their support – not only of junior rugby league for a further year, but also extending this support to our Men’s Premiership,” Humm says.

“The CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Junior Programme is foundational for our tamariki, whereby they learn new skills and are able to have fun with their friends on a Saturday morning playing rugby league at Canterbury Agricultural Park. Whitehead Plumbing & Gas’ support is critical in terms of activating this programme.

“Courtesy of the CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Men’s Premiership, we are delighted to have them on as a new sponsor for our elite senior competition.

“Delivering the CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Men’s Pre-Season Competition and the CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Men’s Premiership requires significant resource, and the support Canterbury Rugby League receives from Whitehead Plumbing & Gas ensures we can deliver quality competitions for our men’s players.”

Olsen has become involved with the CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Junior Programme on a personal level, following his son’s rugby league debut last year.

Meanwhile, he still pulls on the boots for the Papanui Tigers in the Presidents grade.

“I’ve been down [to Canterbury Park] on the wet, cold Saturday mornings cheering on our five-year-old,” he says.

“I hadn’t been down as much in previous years, but it was good for my wife and I to get amongst it last year. He got about 10 tries – he keeps telling me he got more than me – [at that age] they’re like a big swarm of bees running around. They talk a big game in the car…

“The carparks are full, everyone’s cheering on the sidelines – there’s always local clubs doing sausage sizzles or coffees, fundraising. I find I’ve gone there to watch my son play and then play against another parent later on in the day in ‘Pressies’ grade.”

Olsen has another reason to be especially excited about the CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Men’s Premiership campaign ahead following the promotion of Greymouth Greyhounds to the top division, courtesy of the club’s MoU with Papanui.

“I’m a West Coaster through and through – Greymouth born and bred – so I’m excited to see the Greyhounds at the higher level.

“The comp’s going to Greymouth [for Greyhounds home games], too, so it’s bringing rugby league back to the West Coast which it deserves. I hope the locals there get behind it.

“With Halswell going pretty good and Greymouth might have a dig, there could be a change of the guard this season.”

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