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Mako mania hits fever pitch
‘It’s the biggest game in Tasman’s history’
The Tasman Makos haven’t been able to escape the hype.
Throughout the Nelson CBD there’s red and blue. Behind shop windows are balloons, posters, streamers. People are walking the streets in Makos jerseys of years gone by. Tonight’s semifinal against Canterbury is on everybody’s lips.
Assistant coach Leon MacDonald can feel the excitement. He agreed that this is why the players play the game and why he’s still involved in it. He described it as the “big stage”. “It’s the biggest game in Tasman’s history and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” he said.
But consciously, the team was preparing just like they would any other game of rugby. They haven’t even spoken of the fact it’s a semifinal, just the opposition they’re playing against. “The field is still 100m long, 70m wide and the grass is green. We don’t want to change anything, over-think the game or play it all on Thursday night,” MacDonald said.
Although they might be consciously trying to ignore the significance of the big occasion to focus on the job at-hand, MacDonald said you can’t escape the hype in Nelson and in Blenheim. “It’s everywhere.
“Both places have really embraced Tasman this year and the support from the public has been massive.
“The guys feel that energy around town. They play with a lot of pride for their province and I think they have really received the support well and that will help them in this game.”
Tasman have had some of the best crowds all season, more than 7000 turned up to their last game, and MacDonald knows how much of an advantage playing at Trafalgar Park will be for the team, both on the night and as they prepare in the morning. It should be a sell-out crowd and nearly everyone will be cheering for the Makos. “This is home. The players sleep in their own beds, they can stay relaxed and familiar. They have their own little coffee shops they like to go to on game day and that familiarity will help build into the game.
“The crowds in Tasman this year have been amazing, probably the best in the country, and that’s another thing that will help spur us home.”
MacDonald described the team as a “special group of men”, who love playing for the jersey, and for their region. “I think that’s the reason why they’ve been so successful. Every time they play they do it with a lot of pride. There’s still a bit of old school values in this team and I think that’s why they’ve had such great support.
“They’ve worked hard to get this opportunity, they deserve to be here.”
“It’s a huge game,” says Nelson deputy mayor Paul Matheson, who will be at Trafalgar Park and is picking a win to the Makos by 6.
“If we consider this is the first time in the top grade and getting into the semi-final, and the attention which will be more than national, probably some international coverage, it’s great.
“Look at the progress of the Tasman Makos over the last couple of years. We’ve got to be pretty proud, they are footing with the big boys and doing better.”
The location of Trafalgar Park so close to town was ideal, and it would be a great night, he said.
Ian Williams, who is an executive of Nelson Tasman Hospitality Association and chairs Uniquely Nelson, says it will be a big night for Nelson.
“Hopefully the weather will hold. Being an evening game we should get plenty of people arriving in the afternoon from Marlborough and locals. We should get a good few after the game and hopefully dinner as well.
“If it’s a good result we should have some celebrating. It just creates a mood for the city. The Makos are definitely going to win. I’ll say by 10 ahead.”
– The Nelson Mail