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Introducing . . . the George Bridge Shield

Primary school rugby has a new trophy to play for — the George Bridge Shield.

It is designed to be a smaller-schools counterpart to the Weka Ball, which is Poverty Bay primary school rugby's equivalent of the Ranfurly Shield.

The inaugural game for the new trophy was held last weekend, with Ormond hosting the Waerenga-o-Kuri-Matawai Rural Mixed rugby team.

A hard-fought game was won by the Rural Mixed team, 70-25.

Waerenga-o-Kuri School principal Richard McCosh said the shield was an exciting initiative to promote the game. His students were buzzing about being the first holders.

“They were very excited to bring back the shield and show their friends . . . we'll have an assembly to show off the trophy and talk about George Bridge.”

The new shield is named after the Crusaders and All Black winger, who went to school in this district and says he still considers Gisborne his hometown.

“Gisborne is a special place for me — I'd love to get home at some stage and give back to the community — but it's quite tough for me right in the thick of the season,” Bridge said this week.

“It's obviously pretty special having the shield named after me. The fact there's another competition for the smaller schools is really cool.”

Bridge said he was more than willing to be involved when he was contacted by his old teacher Stu Barclay to see if he wanted to be involved and get it started.

Barclay, now the deputy principal of Awapuni School, said that historically the same three or four schools shared possession of the Weka Ball.

“Little schools struggle to compete. This (the George Bridge Shield) is more for the country schools.”

Much like the Ranfurly Shield, the George Bridge Shield is up for grabs at every home game of the holders where both teams are eligible.

Schools who have a team in the A Division of primary inter-school competition cannot challenge for the shield. These schools include Awapuni, Te Wharau, Mangapapa, Kaiti, Riverdale and Central.

Inaugural shield holders: The Waerenga-o-Kuri-Matawai Rural Mixed rugby team are the first holders of the George Bridge Shield. Team members are pictured with Poverty Bay Rugby Football Union player development manager Kahu Tamatea. The players are, standing (from left) Kate Pardoe, Charlie Butt, Mia Webby, Papazann Brown-Hura, Will Roche, Hunter Rogers, Jimmy Coop and James Butt. Kneeling: James Redpath, Henry Morrison, Angus Webby, Ged Cook and Jacob Allen. Picture by Brooke Allen