Rural rugby club takes on the Kurt Baker Challenge

CELEBRATION TREND: Waihora celebrated their 20-10 Coleman Shield rugby triumph over Darfield on Saturday, by taking part in the Kurt Baker Challenge. Captain Ryan Koning hoists Joel Hardon on his shoulders following the win. PHOTO: Waihora Rugby Club

The All Black Sevens did it first, then the Southern Steel and now it is the turn of a rural Canterbury rugby team.

Waihora senior rugby team celebrated their 20-10 Coleman Shield rugby triumph over Darfield on Saturday, by taking part in the Kurt Baker Challenge.

Captain Ryan Koning hoisted Joel Hardon on his shoulders following the win. The challenge involves a player holding a sports trophy while sitting on a teammates shoulders surrounded by teammates.
It was started by All Blacks Sevens player Kurt Baker who sat naked on teammate Trael Joass’ shoulders when they returned home to Auckland Airport after winning the Seven World Cup last month.
Back to the rugby, the team has enjoyed unprecedented success this season with a full trophy cabinet that includes the Combined Country Trophy, Ellesmere’s Coleman Shield and the Murray Cooper Shield.
Waihora captain Ryan Koning believes the foundations the team’s all-conquering club rugby run started with pre-season training on the polo grounds near Tai Tapu and a few beers afterwards in a shipping container.
“We didn’t have changing sheds or clubrooms at the start of the year and the grounds weren’t able to be trained on so we had to get inventive,” he said.
“We had a lot of really enthusiastic guys that just ripped into it despite those challenges and it really worked.”

Waihora won 18 of their 20 games this season on their way to claiming the Combined Country competition and Ellesmere’s senior rugby crown, the Coleman Shield.

Waihora co-coach Joff Mooar admitted like many champion teams they learnt the most from their losses – and they experienced one in their first game of the season against Saracens.

“The team was so eager to get going that we played like a team would if they’d had 10 games already,” he said.

“It just didn’t work.”

Koning described the loss as “a good kick in the pants”.

That would turn out to be the only blemish on a dominant Combined Country campaign.

They wouldn’t taste defeat again until late in the Coleman Shield competition, thanks to a lacklustre 21-19 defeat to Prebbleton.

“I sat in the changing rooms afterwards and a lot of heads were down,” Koning said. “But mine wasn’t. The way I looked at it, that was the best thing that could have happened to us after we’d won for so long.”

Mooar agreed: “We played terribly but only lost by two points so in a way it was a good thing.”

Mooar was quick to heap praise for the season on a man he had seen more than his wife over the past six months, fellow coach Terry Dalton.

“Terry was someone who brought a fresh perspective to the team this year,” Mooar said.

“We had a division two team for the first time and that meant there was a group of 30 to 35 guys all training together and pushing each other for positions.

“Terry also introduced video analysis, which helped a lot of the guys work on things after the fact. The running joke amongst our wives has been that we have been like each other’s other wife over the past six months.”

“Terry and I have no problem expressing what we are seeing on the field. While he takes the forwards and defence and I take the backs and attack, if we see something that can help the team, then we’ll speak up,” he said.

“It works.”

Mooar praised two key players in his backline for their ability to adapt and thrive throughout the campaign. First-five Jonty Stuart and mid-fielder Matt Saunders both filled vital holes in the championship team.

“Jonty was new to the club, and I thought we may have to mix-and-match him and Matt at times throughout the year, but he piloted us so well around the park all year and allowed us to have Matt at centre dealing with all the traffic.”

Koning said beating Darfield on their home ground to secure the Combined Country and Coleman Shield double
was a great way to end the season.

“The Darfield club are full of great guys and their coaching staff and overall hospitality is superb and we knew that was going to be a fitting final,” he said.

Mooar said his team were now the measuring stick their rivals tried to match up to and they were happy with that.

“The boys know that and embrace it, “ he said. “They see it as a challenge.”

Mooar said he was eager to come back next year and replicate his brother, Brad, who has just won two Super Rugby titles as an assistant coach with the Crusaders.

“You always want to go one better,” Mooar said.

“It’d be great to come back next year and only lose one game or none. That’s what we’ll be aiming for.”