A look at Wanganui’s proud national championship record in a season without Heartland Championship
This week’s announcement to cancel the 2020 Heartland Championship, by the 12 unions who contest, it puts what is hopefully just a temporary pause on Wanganui’s proud rugby legacy.
Historian JB Phillips takes a look those good times.
Cancellation of the 2020 Heartland competition brings to a halt to 44 continual years of national championship fixtures for Wanganui representative rugby teams.
The Butcher Boys have won 10 titles, finished runners-up 11 times and third on five occasions since contesting the inaugural North Island Div 2 series in 1976.
Wanganui finished second to Taranaki on four occasions in the 12-union N.I. Div 2 competition which ran for nine years until the New Zealand Div 2 and 3 leagues started in 1985 and operated for 21 years before Heartland rugby, embracing 12 unions, commenced in 2006.
With seven titles (six in the Meads Cup and the 2014 second tier Lochore Cup) in the 14 years of Heartland games the blue and blacks are the most consistent and dominating union in the competition.
In addition Wanganui finished runners-up on five occasions.
Wanganui, with three NZ Div 3 championships, was matched by South Canterbury and Thames Valley, as the most successful unions in that championship.
The Butcher Boys were runners-up twice in the competition and finished third on three occasions.
The main local placing in the higher NZ Div 2 series was third behind Waikato and North Harbour in 1986 after losing 9-29 in Hamilton and 13-16 at Takapuna in vital tour games.
Wanganui has won the most titles in Heartland and NZ Div 2 and 3 since the national NPC competitions started in 1985 with 10 championships – six Meads, one Lohore and three NPC Div 3.
North Otago, winners of three Meads, three Lochore and the 2002 NPC Div 3 competitions, has won seven titles.
Hawke’s Bay won six NPC Div 2 competitions over a 20-year period between 1985 and 2005.
South Canterbury, Poverty Bay and Mid Canterbury each won five titles, Thames Valley four and East Coast, Taranaki and Southland three each.
The following is a summary of the national competitions that Wanganui has contested –
North Island Div 2 (Nine years – 1976-1984 – 12 unions) – Wanganui runners-up to Taranaki 1976 12-32 NP, 1982 12-31 NP, 1983 9-24 Home, 1984 12-35 NP. Third 1978 and 1981, Title winners – Taranaki 4, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, North Auckland, Waikato and Wairarapa-Bush 1 each.
New Zealand Div 2 (Wanganui played 12 times in the 21-years of the grade between 1985 and 2005 with 24 unions involved at various stages). Highest local placing was third in 1986. Title winners – Hawke’s Bay 6, Southland and Taranaki 3, Nelson Bays 2, Bay of Plenty, Counties, King Country, North Auckland, North Harbour, Waikato and Central Vikings 1 each.
New Zealand Div 3 (Wanganui played in the grade nine times between 1992 and 2003. There were 21 unions involved in various years). Wanganui beat South Canterbury 24-21 away in 1989, Marlborough 22-17 away in 1996 and King Country 28-16 at Te Kuiti in 2003 in finals and lost locally 12-31 to Thames Valley in the 1988 round robin and 9-15 against Horowhenua in the 1993 final. Title winners – Wanganui, South Canterbury and Thames Valley 3 each, East Coast, Poverty Bay and Mid Canterbury 2 each, Horowhenua, Nelson Bays, Marlborough, North Otago and West Coast 1 each.
Heartland – 2006-2019 – 12 teams – in Meads Cup finals Wanganui beat Mid Canterbury 27-12 here in 2008 and 34-13 at Christchurch in 2009, East Coast 30-10 here in 2011, South Canterbury 28-11 at Timaru in 2015, Buller 20-18 here in 2016 and Horowhenua-Kapiti 30-14 at Levin in 2017 and lost locally to Wairarapa-Bush 14-16 in 2006 away to North Otago 8-25 in 2007, 18-39 in 2010 and 19-33 last year and 27-29 to East Coast at Ruatoria in 2012. Wanganui beat North Otago 24-12 in the 2014 Lochore final in Oamaru. Meads Cup winners – Wanganui 6, North Otago 3, Mid Canterbury 2 East Coast, Wairarapa-Bush, Thames Valley 1 each. Lochore Cup champions – North Otago and Poverty Bay 3 each, South Canterbury 2, Wanganui, Wairarapa-Bush, King Country, Mid Canterbury, Horowhenua-Kapiti, Buller 1 each.
If the current Covid-19 shut-down prevents any representative rugby it will be only the third time Wanganui will not have a match in its 133 year history.
The only previous occasions were during the First World War years of 1916 and 1917.
Wanganui played single games, both at home, in its foundation year 1888 (drawing 1-all with Great Britain) and 1989 (beat Taranaki 9-4).