The ninth edition of the hugely popular Pink Batts Heartland Championship gets underway on August 23 when King Country and Wairarapa Bush meet at Taupo’s Owen Delaney Park. – FULL DRAW – CLICK HERE
It was founded in 2006 as one of two successor competitions to the country’s former domestic competition, the National Provincial Championship [NPC], and has gone from strength to strength.
Last year’s competition was the best yet; bumper crowds attended and the viewer rating figures for the Meads Cup and Lochore Cup finals shown live on Sky TV were excellent.
The evenness of the competition is evident by the number of teams that have won titles. Last year’s Championship [Meads Cup] winners Mid Canterbury won for the first time, but were the fifth province to taste success.
It was the third year of the current format, and the same structure is in place for 2014. The Meads Cup and Lochore Cup semi—finals will be played on October 18 between the top eight placed teams, with the Meads Cup final to be played on Saturday October 25, and the Lochore Cup final on Sunday October 26.
The Heartland Championship is an amateur competition, and it has galvanized rugby supporters throughout the 12 provinces that truly are the heartland of New Zealand rugby.
The standards are increasing, particularly at the semi-ﬁnal stage of both competitions, and so a re opportunities for players to be noticed.
The Marty Banks story is that of a fairytale come true. In 2012, Banks was a goal-kicking success story for Buller as they won the Lochore Cup. He was spotted by judicious talent scouts at Tasman, who signed him for last year’s ITM Championship.
Banks rewrote the Tasman records with 170 points for the season and 28 points in one match. In 2014, he was recruited by the Hurricanes. He has progressed from Heartland Championship to Super Rugby in just three seasons.