Club transformation complete for new champions Eden
Early .rugby adopters Eden celebrate major breakthrough
After 99 years of trying, Auckland club rugby side Eden is celebrating its first ever title in the city’s premier division.
A 19-10 win over Grammar TEC in the final at Eden Park saw the side lift the Gallaher Shield for the first time, capping a strong season where they only lost two games.
The title may have been 99 years in the making, but perhaps the most significant of those years have been the last few. Not too long ago, the idea of winning the premier competition may have seemed an impossible dream, but the club has gone from strength to strength.
A small working group was established in 2013 with the goal of spurring a resurgence of the club. Eden had consistently placed amongst the bottom teams in the premier grade, and had struggled to attract players as a result.
One of the people on that working group was the club’s current chairman, Phil Cullen.
“We were one of the smaller clubs in Auckland, but 2013 was an opportunity to reset,” Cullen says. “We wanted to build a club culture and values within the club, so we put a strategy in place for the next five years that would lead to us winning the Gallaher Shield.”
The buy in from club members was significant in delivering on that plan. Administrators, coaches, managers, volunteers and supporters played an important role in developing that culture so it was inclusive and engaging, and ultimately successful on the field.
Slowly but surely, the club started to transform. The facilities had a huge makeover, with an $800,000 refurbishment of the clubhouse, a new gym, changing rooms and toilet facilities for both men and women.
Eden also put real effort into engaging current and potential new members by boosting its presence online.
The club was an early adopter of the innovative .rugby website platform. Its website, eden.rugby brings a wide range of valuable content to players, supporters and administrators, and now also proudly wears the badge of 2021 Gallaher Shield champions.
“The website allows us to take hire bookings for the clubhouse and registrations for players – it’s so much easier for people to interact with the club,” Cullen says. “We produce a weekly newsletter, which is all driven through the website. It’s a great medium for us to be able to keep in touch with the community and all the members.”
Eden is by no means a club of big names and rock star players – in fact, no-one in its champion premier squad has a professional contract. Instead, its strength lies in the dedication of the players, coaches and supporters at all levels. The website has an important role in facilitating that dedication by keeping club members engaged and informed.
It may have taken slightly more than five years, but the culmination of all that hard work with a Gallaher Shield title is an extraordinary high. It’s not the only success the club tasted in 2021 either – Eden’s Premier Development team won the second tier competition and the U21’s took out their bowl final too.
This strength through different levels of the club makes for a promising outlook for the future.
“We’re going to reset our strategy and set some new goals,” Phil Cullen says. “One of them will be to retain the Gallaher Shield next year, which is our centenary. There are some big plans for that occasion, and we want to build on what we’ve done up until now.”
“The building blocks we’ve put in place and the wonderful people we have at the club are an amazing platform we can continue to grow on. We’d love to win more championships, and another big goal is to develop more international players. We’re not like other clubs with photos of All Blacks all over the walls, but we’d love to be.”