Counties Manukau Rugby Union

Counties Manukau Rugby Union
Counties Manukau Rugby Union
Nickname(s) Steelers
Founded 1955
Region Chiefs
Ground(s) Growers Stadium, Pukekohe (Capacity: 12,000)
Coach(es) New Zealand Milton Haig
League(s) ITM Cup
2010 9th
Team kit

The Counties Manukau Rugby Football Union (CMRFU) is the governing body of rugby union in the Franklin district of New Zealand. The Steelers colours are red, white, and black horizontal bands. The 'Steelers' moniker is a reference to the nearby Glenbrook steel factory. The Union is based in Pukekohe, and plays at Growers Stadium, Pukekohe.



The history of Counties has been very much about adventurous football and taking risks, and this was certainly the case initially as the team strove to establish an identity and tradition. First known as South Auckland Counties, the next year they became Counties, and much later Counties-Manukau.

Counties' first game was against Thames Valley in Waiuku in 1955 which they won 15 - 14, led by Barry Baxter. In that inaugural year the team also defeated an Auckland XV twice, the first 19 - 6 on Bledisloe Park, Pukekohe, where the union's first All Black, Pat Walsh scored twice. Counties playing style was enterprising but organised, often frowned upon at the time as lacking in structure, but in reality it was successful.

Barry Bracewell, coach from 1961–63 and 1967–75, adopted a style in conflict with the ethos of the day of forward dominance and percentage safety from the backs. Bracewell and Tauroa after him, selected mobile forwards and loose forwards with exciting backs with attacking gameplans. This era produced some fine All Blacks, including Bruce McLeod, Bob Lendrum, Andy Dalton, John Spiers, Rod Ketels, Bruce Robertson, and Robert Kururangi.

The Counties team of this era had many highlights. The first was Winning the NPC championship in 1979 with wins over Waikato, Wellington, North Auckland, Thames Valley, Bay of Plenty, Poverty Bay, South Canterbury, Manawatu, Taranaki, Otago, Canterbury, and Southland, also beating Victoria and Argentina that year.

Winning the Inter-Dominion Championship (forerunner to the Super 10) against Queensland in Brisbane was another achievement, while the 1982 team beat Australia 15 - 9, which included greats such as David Campese.

The Ranfurly shield has so far eluded Counties, although it has been in some memorable challenges. In 1982, playing Canterbury not only for the Ranfurly Shield but also the NPC championship, with Counties ahead 15 - 12 with only minutes remaining, Robert Kururangi intercepted a Canterbury pass and was about to score when the referee dubiously judged him offside, awarding Canterbury the penalty which Robbie Deans successfully kicked to win the championship and retain the shield.

The previous season the shield challenge against Waikato also ended in a draw (21 all) after Counties conceded two late and controversial penalties.

The third log of wood agony came 3 years later in 1985 against Auckland when Counties, down 3 - 12, were denied what appeared to be a perfectly legitimate try to Dave Trombik after the ref received some subtle persuasion by Auckland skipper Andy Haden. Later in the game Warren McClean scored a try for Counties making the final score 9-12. The unfancied Counties side losing in what should have been a well-deserved victory.

After a period of time containing more lows than highs, including a stint in the second division, Counties finally came good during the mid-1990s. A forward packing containing Errol Brain, Jim Coe, Glen Marsh, and Junior Paramore, with backs including Tony Marsh, Blair Feeney, Jonah Lomu, Joeli Vidiri and Dean Sheppard proved one of the best Counties side ever, making the NPC finals twice, in 1996 and 1997, losing to Auckland and Canterbury respectively.

A highlight of that period came in 1997 during the semi-final in Hamilton. Behind at one stage 9 - 33, and stung by a ground announcement advertising tickets for a home Waikato final next week, Counties fought back with a thrilling 43 - 40 win.

After a steady decline since then, Counties lost a promotion-relegation match in 2001, and dropped to the second division. Here, Counties could not retain their best players and lost the likes of Stephen Donald, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Casey Laulala, and Keiran Reid to other unions.

In 2006 Counties was selected to rejoin the top sides in the new Air New Zealand Cup Premier Division, and they still retain their exciting attacking style of rugby. While success has so far been limited, one highlight beating Auckland in 2008, more time in the top division and retaining their tops players, Counties will only get stronger. As is evident in the current 2010 season, where they're at the top of the table.

Ref: Cochrane, P. (2005). Enterprise and Agony. 50 years of Counties Rugby. NZ.

Current squad

Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under IRB eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-IRB nationality.

Player Position Union
Grant Henson Hooker New Zealand New Zealand
Mark Price Hooker New Zealand New Zealand
Suliasi Taufalele Hooker New Zealand New Zealand
Ihipa Thompson Prop New Zealand New Zealand
Maka Tatafu Prop New Zealand New Zealand
Peter Hale Prop New Zealand New Zealand
Simon Lemalu Prop Samoa Samoa
Jeremiah Fatialofa Prop Samoa Samoa
Matt Talaese Prop New Zealand New Zealand
Chris McLaren Lock New Zealand New Zealand
Ronald Raaymakers Lock New Zealand New Zealand
Sikeli Nabou Lock Fiji Fiji
Taiasina Tuifua Lock Samoa Samoa
Jamie Chipman (c) Lock New Zealand New Zealand
Adam Cathcart Flanker New Zealand New Zealand
DJ Forbes Flanker New Zealand New Zealand
Mark Selwyn Flanker New Zealand New Zealand
Player Position Union
Fritz Lee Number 8 New Zealand New Zealand
Viliami Fihaki Number 8 Tonga Tonga
August Pulu Scrum-half New Zealand New Zealand
David Bason Scrum-half New Zealand New Zealand
Samisoni Fisilau Scrum-half Tonga Tonga
Baden Kerr Fly-half New Zealand New Zealand
James Semple Fly-half New Zealand New Zealand
Tasesa Lavea Fly-half Samoa Samoa
Niva Ta'auso Centre Samoa Samoa
Reynold Lee-Lo Centre Samoa Samoa
Siale Piutau Centre Tonga Tonga
Bundee Aki Wing New Zealand New Zealand
Sherwin Stowers Wing New Zealand New Zealand
Tyrone Lefau Wing New Zealand New Zealand
Ahsee Tuala Fullback New Zealand New Zealand
Tim Nanai-Williams Fullback New Zealand New Zealand

All Blacks and Centurions

Counties players in the All Blacks.

  • P.T. Walsh. 1955 - 59, 63
  • K.L Skinner. 1956
  • R.R Cossey. 1958
  • B.E. McLeod. 1964 - 70
  • M.O. Knight. 1968
  • R.N. Lendrum. 1973
  • B.J. Robertson. 1972 - 74, 76 - 81
  • J.E. Spiers. 1976, 79 - 81
  • R.C. Ketels. 1979 - 81
  • A.G. Dalton. 1977 - 85, 87
  • R. Kururangi. 1978
  • N.H. Allen. 1980
  • B.W. Codlin. 1980
  • H.B. Wilson. 1983
  • M.S. Cooksley. 1992 - 93
  • J.T. Lomu. 1994 - 02
  • J. Vidiri. 1998
  • S. Sivivatu 2004. (made All Blacks from Waikato)
  • C. Laulala 2005. (made All Blacks from Canterbury)
  • S. Donald 2008. (made All Blacks from Waikato)
  • K. Read 2009. (made All Blacks from Canterbury)
  • L. Masaga. 2009

Players who have played 100 or more games for the union.

  • Alan Dawson
  • Andy Dalton
  • Bob Lendrum
  • Ean McRobbie
  • Graham Taylor
  • Henk Harbraken
  • Henry Maxwell
  • Jim Coe
  • John Speirs
  • John Hughes
  • Lee Lidgard
  • Lindsay Raki
  • Mark Moore
  • Paul Tuoro
  • Peter Clotworthy
  • Rod Ketels
  • Roy Craig
  • Warren McLean
  • Errol Brain
  • Bruce Robertson
  • Grant Henson

Air New Zealand/ITM Cup

In 2006 the Steelers finished the first round 5th in Pool B with 9 points, including a win over Southland (29 - 8). They finished 3rd in Repechage A with 5 points, including a draw with Manawatu (25 - 25).

In 2007 the Steelers finished 14th with 2 points, from a draw with North Harbour (13 - 13).

In 2008 the Steelers finished 13th with 13 points, including wins over Auckland (17 - 6) and Manawatu (27 - 14).

In 2009 the Steelers finished 14th with 12 points, including wins over Taranaki (33 - 21) and Northland (28 - 19).

In 2010 the Steelers finished 9th with 31 points, including wins over Otago (29 - 13), Wellington (31 - 25), Manawatu (35 - 14), Tasman (23 - 3), Northland (40 - 24), and North Harbour (24 - 23).


A previous logo of the union

Wonder years

Counties Manukau Steelers former logo

Counties Manukau rugby enjoyed its heyday in the 1980s. Led by Andy Dalton*, the team established grunting forwards including Alan Dawson and a free-wheeling style of backline play based on the silky skills and speed of players such as Bruce Robertson* and Robert Kururangi*. Other notable players from that era included Ken Parry, Paul Wardrop, Jack Kani, Rod Ketels, John Spiers and Lindsay Raki. From 1995 till 1999, captain Errol Brain led another successful era, with famous players such as Jonah Lomu*, Joeli Vidiri*, Danny Lee*, Tony Marsh, and Jim Coe. The "player drain" of stars such as Lomu (Wellington), Vidiri (Auckland), Lee (Otago), and Marsh (France), signalled a downturn in the fortunes of Counties. Other players who have moved on include Kristian Ormsby, Loki Crichton, John Afoa*, and Sitiveni Sivivatu*, Casey Laulala*, Kieran Read* (younger grades)

[*] denotes a player who achieved All Blacks selection

Counties Manukau in Super Rugby

When Super Rugby began, Counties Manukau was associated with the Blues; but since 1999 it has been aligned to the Chiefs.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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