The team behind the sport Raquel Joseph, The Westport News
The Buller Rugby Union’s (BRU’s) staff and board of directors are preparing for the start of the season next month.
BRU chief executive Andrew Duncan said the board of seven hard-working professionals was eager to see rugby thrive in the Buller District.
BRU’s board of directors told The News what they love about local rugby.
Hugh McMillan, chairman
Hugh has been on the board since 2016 and chaired it since 2018. He grew up watching and playing rugby and continued to be part of rugby communities when he left Westport for a time.
“I moved away from Westport in my teens and came back in my late 20’s. While I was away, I played rugby in quite a number of different places and not necessarily to any great standard,” he said. “At each new place I went, I found playing sport and rugby in particular was a great way to meet new people and become part of a new community.”
The BRU was a small union, so everyone involved worked together for the betterment of the game. The board had addressed some challenging issues.
Hugh believed his experience servicing on other boards meant he was qualified for the governance responsibilities at BRU.
“I enjoy being involved with the various people involved with all aspects of the sport.”
His role in rugby includes representing Buller on the Provincial Union steering group.
Sharon Roche, deputy chairwoman
Like Hugh, Sharon joined the board in 2016. She became deputy chairwoman in 2018. She is also the union’s part-time executive director.
“As rugby continues to strive for diversity and inclusion in the game, it’s a privilege to be the deputy chairperson.”
Sharon grew up surrounded by rugby – her father and three younger brothers all played. She tried her hand at touch rugby in her 20s and has seen her daughter’s love of the sport.
“It was a very proud moment when my youngest daughter donned the White Star jersey at the age of four.”
Although Buller is the smallest provincial union in New Zealand, Sharon said it was among the leaders.
“We are always striving to find new initiatives to promote the game. In 2021 Buller Rugby was placed first in New Zealand in the Voice of the Participant survey, which was sent out to all players and parents of juniors playing the game in New Zealand. We are extremely proud of this result.”
She believed rugby was an important part of the Buller community.
“Rugby has always been part of the Buller, and even more so today with the expansion of the female game. Whether a player, coach, committee member or supporter, most people have at some time in their lives been touched by rugby.”
Barry Townrow, member director
Barry has been part of Buller Rugby since 1974, when he joined the management committee as a Buller primary school delegate.
As a teacher, it was his role to advocate for the young children and primary schools, he said.
“I just enjoy being a part of the rugby fraternity… Being able to watch rugby grow in the Buller from all ages, from junior JAB rugby to seniors and being part of the way forward.”
As a long-standing member, Barry has seen provincial rugby become more professional, starting with the inception of union boards.
He said BRU had grown into a strong, professional union over the years.
“Because we have to fight for everything we get, we appreciate what we have. We have very good employees that make sure that Buller rugby is right at the forefront.”
As well as having a seat on the board, Barry has played for White Star and Buller.
He also commentates Buller rugby games for Coast FM and does Heartland Rugby tv interviews.
Kevin Aldridge, member director
Kevin has served on the BRU board for the last three years.
As a former player, he felt it was his turn to put up his hand up to help. Kevin said he enjoyed working with the BRU board, staff, and players to improve Buller rugby, and loved seeing everyone give it a go.
“The senior coaches and players are great, without them we don’t have local rugby, and of course the JAB young people are just a buzz to watch on a Saturday morning giving this great game a go… I think for a small union we punch above our weight.”
He recommended anyone interested in rugby to give it a go.
Chris Reid, member director
Chris has been on the board for three years.
She said she enjoyed adding another female voice to the group, working with great people, and watching great rugby.
“I wanted to help grow and secure rugby in the Buller for future generations. I had two grandsons who were playing at the time.”
Chris became secretary for the White Star club in 2017, where her oldest grandson played. Her husband Dave became a coach.
She said everyone involved in the BRU, from the board to parents on the sideline, was passionate about Buller rugby.
“I quite like the saying, ‘a kid in sport stays out of court’!”
She said Saturdays would not be the same without rugby, a debrief and laughs afterwards.
Shannon Hollis, independent director
Shannon describes herself as “the new kid on the block”. She became one of two new board members this month.
She has governance experience, a law background, and a passion for Buller rugby, so felt she was the right fit for BRU.
“I have a desire to see our region succeed and hopefully I am able to contribute by applying my professional skills to the cause. I understand the region, the economic and geographical challenges and most importantly – the people.”
Shannon grew up watching her family play rugby and playing herself. More recently she’s been the citing commissioner liaison officer for BRU and National Provincial Competition home fixtures.
She said BRU’s size set it apart and provided a personal approach and more opportunities for local players.
Shannon is looking forward to seeing a return to “somewhat new normal” on and off the field and seeing as many people enjoying the sport as possible.
“I am a firm believer that sport is crucial for the development of good mental and physical health… The more people we can get involved the better… Come and get involved – play, coach, assist, spectate, support!”
Rob Beattie, independent director
Rob Beattie moved to Westport last July and has already become part of the rugby community. He was appointed alongside Shannon this month.
Rob has been involved with other rugby unions around the country and is looking forward to contributing to Buller Rugby.
“While the BRU is the smallest in New Zealand, it appears to be a great organisation which a lot of the larger unions could follow. I am looking forward to contributing to the BRU and the wider community in general.”
He said all community sports had a positive impact on the people involved, and BRU had “a great emphasis on community involvement”.