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SunLive – Tū Manawa funds Tauranga American Football club

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It’s Superbowl weekend! While the glitz, glamour and glory of Travis Kelce, Taylor Swift and Las Vegas may seem far away one Tauranga club is bringing those American Football dreams closer to home with help from Tū Manawa Active Aotearoa.

Tauranga Tridents successfully applied for the Fast Fund, managed by Sport Bay of Plenty, in 2022 with the aim of establishing full contact American Football in Tauranga.

With the funding available, the club was able to purchase equipment which brought contact gridiron back to the Western Bay of Plenty.

The Tridents formed in 2021, ending a 20-year hiatus of organised American Football in the city.

What started with flag football, a sport in its own right which is set for an Olympic debut at Los Angeles 2028, was always intended to develop into a contact game offering.

However, with large numbers needed to build a squad and equipment expensive, providing the gear needed to play became pivotal for president Alex Hatwell and brother and club secretary Sean.

Bay of Plenty now has one of the largest player bases outside of Auckland. Photo supplied/ Tauranga Tridents American Football.

“Given we were a new club and hoping to attract new people to the sport, it was not feasible to expect players to purchase equipment in order to try out a sport,” says Alex.

“We offered contact version ‘taster sessions’, which involved learning techniques of the game without equipment.

“But we found that players quickly drifted away after realising they weren’t going to be able to get into the equipment that they see the players on TV wearing.

“Furthermore, it’s a sport where everybody needs to be in the equipment, or no one at all, to allow it to be done safely.

“It didn’t take long to realise we either needed to purchase a full set of equipment ourselves or face the prospect that our contact American Football dream would be over before it started.”

With that in mind, the pair quickly identified the Tū Manawa Fast Fund as a potential avenue for much needed financial support.

Tū Manawa Active Aotearoa is a Sport NZ initiative managed by Sport Bay of Plenty in the Bay of Plenty region. It provides funding for the delivery of activities for children and young people.

This fund has a particular focus on groups who are less active, including girls and young women, disabled people and those living in higher deprivation communities.

This was an area where the Tridents, with a diverse and varied team base, felt they fitted the bill.

“Within New Zealand, American Football as a sport is very popular in areas where there is high need and or deprivation,” says Sean.

The club is currently thriving. Photo supplied/ Tauranga Tridents American Football.

“We wanted to remove these barriers so that no player would be left behind if they wanted to play our sport.

“The beauty of American Football is that athletes who are considered ‘too big’ for traditional sports such as rugby and league, which require a high cardio base, can still have a vital role on the team on the offensive or defensive line.”

Once the application was approved the club, with support from New Zealand American Football Federation, an order was made for 30 full sets of contact equipment, including helmets and shoulder pads, allowing the Tridents to push forward with their dream of fully-fledged contact American Football in Tauranga.

“The Tū Manawa funding was hugely important,” Alex explains.

“We estimate the funding provided has helped bring forward the development of the club by two or three years.”

The club is currently thriving. Alongside the contact football programme, they also offer flag football for junior boys and girls, youth men, women, men and masters.

Nine players are also involved in NZAFF Flag Football High Performance Units including two women who represented New Zealand at the recent Asia/Oceania Continental Championships.

“We’ve only recently celebrated our second birthday and we’ve already put American Football back on the map in both the contact and non-contact forms of the game,” says Sean.

“According to NZAFF figures, the Bay of Plenty now has one of the largest player bases outside of Auckland.

“The funding has allowed us to invest time, energy and funding into building our women’s and junior flag football programmes, something that would have been more difficult to do if we were still hunting funding for the contact football equipment, so the future is bright for the Tauranga City Tridents.”

Applications for the Tū Manawa Fast Fund are currently closed but are still being welcomed for the Major Fund, with applications set to close on Monday, February 26.

For more information, please visit www.sportbop.co.nz/funding/tu-manawa-active-aotearoa/.

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