It will be a case of back to the future for the Blues who begin their Super Rugby season with a pre-season match against the Melbourne Rebels at Pakuranga on 4 February.
The Blues, with the support of the Pakuranga United Rugby Club, will host a free game at Bell Park on Thursday 4 February kick off at 5.30pm.
Club stalwart and Blues loose forward Joe Edwards said the team was looking forward to their first ever match at Pakuranga.
“When you play in a big stadium and it’s not full it’s hard to get a connection as a player. But I expect the ground will be packed and have a real intimate feel, which is going to be great,” Edwards said.
“Clubs like Pakuranga are where it started for all of us.”
Edwards played for the club since 2001 and remembers his early days.
“I started here with the Under 9s. We weren’t much good but we turned up. I loved halftime oranges best.”
The Auckland and Blues loosie played up to under-13s and then returned after high school, going straight into the Premiers and on to Auckland ITM Cup and the Blues.
“The club was fantastic. It’s a great place to play. That’s why I think this game is massive not just for the club for the whole of east Auckland.
“To get this calibre of game as a free game out in the community will have a real positive effect back into grassroots.
“I am sure it will be an eye-opener out here for a lot of people who may not watch much rugby, or may not have rugby as their preferred sport of choice. And it’s an opportunity for the region to get behind an awesome fixture.”
There are five current Blues players who have been part of the club including Matt Duffie, who like Edwards played at the club as a youngster, TJ Faiane and Namatahi Waa who got their starts after high school at Pakuranga, and prop Sam Prattley who came to Pakuranga from the South Island and moved into Auckland and the Blues as a result.
For those attending the Blues v Rebels match-up, make sure you get along to Pakuranga Rugby Club well before the 5.30pm kick-off to secure your spot. Parking at the club will be strictly limited so carpool with friends and grab a spot on the side of the road in Bell Park. There’ll be coffee and the Saturday rugby classic hot dog and chips for sale, plus the squad will stay on-field for a signing session after the final whistle.
Come prepared for some great footy and a good night out with friends and family.