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King Country - 'the heartland of New Zealand Rugby'

King Country Rugby embodies all that is good about the game at its heart, its grassroots. For most, it is memories of our legendary All Black Sir Colin Meads that come to mind when discussing King Country Rugby, but the truth is the same hard-nosed, uncompromising approach that made Pinetree the most fearsome, respected player of his day lives on today in those who work and play across the green farms and volcanic terrains of the region.

Given the widespread nature of the union's population, committment and sacrifice are values bred into rugby people as a legacy of King Country Rugby since it was established in 1922. From Kawhia, Otorohanga and Te Kuiti in the west, Taumarunui, Owhango and National Park in the south, to Taupo, Turangi and Rangitaiki in the east, our people have gone to great lengths to ensure rugby moves forward.

The union's first representative match in 1922 saw King Country battle for a tightly-fought 8-9 loss against Wairarapa in front of a 1500-strong Te Kuiti crowd. By 1937, King Country boasted the selection of its first All Black when Makomako wing Bill Phillips, followed by Jack McLean (1947), Ron Bryers (1949), Colin Meads (1957-71), Stan Meads (1961-66), Graham Whiting (1972-73), Kevin Boroevich (1983-88) and Phil Coffin (1996). More recently All Blacks and Chiefs captain Sam Cane, who usually plays his provincial rugby for Bay of Plenty, pulled on the maroon-and-gold jersey for one game in 2021 as part of his return to rugby after a pectoral injury.

Today, King Country Rugby is governed by a board, with daily business operations overseen by current general manager Kurt McQuilkin and rugby operations led by current rugby manager Josh Standen, alongside a small but hard-working staff. Their work includes managing the King Country Rams in the Heartland Championship, rugby development which includes an age-group representative programme and Rippa and skills sessions in local schools.