By all accounts, the Baywide premier rugby encounter between Te Puna and Whakarewarewa on Matakana Island was an outstanding success for all involved in the unique initiative. 

Te Puna gave away their home advantage at Maramatanga Park, in order to give support to the rugby club that sits on an Island in Tauranga Harbour.

Probably the biggest crowd to ever watch rugby on the Island, joined the barge that traverses the waters from Omokoroa to the Island, to catch an awesome rugby experience. 

The Baywide rugby game that had been some months in the making, was played out with the majestic Mauao sitting as the backdrop.

While Tauranga City is just over the horizon, one could be a million miles away, such is the solitude of Matakana Island. 

Every local rugby fan should make the trip from the big smoke to Matakana Island once in their lifetime, to experience the unique hospitality provided by the Islanders. 

The first of three matches played on the weekend, was a Western Bay of Plenty Rugby Sub-Union Senior Reserve fixture played between Matakana Island and the Te Puna third team. 

This writer is the current custodian of much of the early history of Tauranga rugby, contained in the Tauranga Rugby Union minute books dating from 1915.

The 1919 TRU minutes reveal that on July 5 1919, Te Puna played the Matakana team on the Island which started a history between the two clubs that now dates back 99 years. 

Circumstance were completely different nearly a century ago, with Matakana having fielded a team for a number of years.

Te Puna were the new boys on the block, with affiliation to the TRU in the same year as the first match between the two near neighbours. 

Papers Past host a Bay of Plenty Times report dated 12 May 1905, that tells of Matakana 1 (senior) and Matakana 11 (junior) playing City 1 and 11 on the Island.

Far from the high scoring Te Puna premier 46-14 win over Whakarewarewa on Saturday, the 1905 senior contest saw the home side prevail six points (two tries) to nil. The junior contest was an even tighter affair finishing in a three all draw. 

Another interesting report,  aside from the Bay of Plenty Times, stated there were moves afoot to start a Referees Association so as teams could play under the auspices of a qualified referee. 

While today, Matakana plays in a Maroon uniform their initial strip was black and white.

A further extract from the 1919 minutes book tells us that Te Puna had registered their playing colours, as two blues which almost remain today, as dark blue and black. 

Rugby along with the general landscape has changed remarkably since the first meeting between Matakana and Te Puna rugby teams nearly a century ago.

However, one constant is the love of the game, witnessed by the many teams and spectators that have made the short journey over the water, to play and watch rugby on Matakana Island.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian