The NZRL Awards Night was a cracking event, riding on the wave of winning the Four Nations in 2014. With Simon Mannering winning the Kiwis player of the Year, from a prestigious list that included Shaun Johnson and Jesse Bromwich. Northlanders were excited to see their very own Otangarei Knights named as finalists in the Grassroots Club of the Year, who were just pipped to the post by the Hornby Panthers, who were named as the winners. (Click here to view the full list of finalists and winners).
The Otangarei Knights had a tumultuous season in 2014, which was capped off by winning their first ever Premiership, as they were crowned RLN MultiKai Cooker Premiership Champions, with a classic tale of the underdog as they came from behind to defeat the Hikurangi Stags. Along the way, they also had to dispose of the Minor Premiers, the Takahiwai Warriors, in the major semi-final as well as defeating the Portland Panthers in the preliminary semi-final.
The 2014 season started out (for the Knights), in a terrible fashion, as they parted company with the City Rugby Club, right in the start of the playing season – this included having to return all playing strips back to the club. The Knights could have folded completely after becoming homeless and without playing gear and a low morale, but instead they displayed the true spirit of ‘more than just a game’ and as a community they all pulled together and worked together to borrow interim playing strips, held weekly fundraising events and by mid-season they had not only Senior gear, but also juniors.
They fielded 5 junior teams – 7s, 9s, 11s, 13s and 15s (the format only required 4 junior teams, but they fielded 5).
The Otangarei Knights Premiers, historically have been known as a team with talent – but with poor disciplinary record often costing them games. As part of the clubs commitment to “More than just a game,” Player/Coach Jackson Katene (Corrections Officer) enforced a team code of conduct that required the team to show discipline on and off the field – the result of this was the team went on to win the RLN MultiKai Cooker Premiership for the 2014 season and establish pride in the Knights as a Club and Community Leader.
For their end of year prize giving, all the players dressed in the playing strips and went on a parade in their local community out to Senior Citizens homes and gated communities. Their pride and achievement has been well-deserved in the face of such adversity
Otangarei is one of Whangarei’s toughest areas, low socio-economic areas, with a bad reputation. The Otangarei Knights were able to unite the community in the positive environment of Rugby League.
A contingent from the Knights attended the Awards which was held at The Floating Pavilion – Viaduct Harbour – Auckland on Wednesday the 28th January.