Unison's Greatest Supporter Programme

Over 1,700 local Hawke’s Bay children take part in Unison Gala Day

Participant numbers more than doubled to 1,800 children taking part in the annual Unison Gala Day which took place last Friday. The Unison Gala Day is an annual event where girls play rugby and boys play netball for the day and is open to all schools in Hawke’s Bay.

Boys between the ages of nine and eighteen practised their passing as they moved the ball around the netball courts in a friendly setting that provided lots of action and opportunity to learn the rules and tactics. Girls between the ages of nine and thirteen gave their all in the rippa and sevens rugby variations, which allowed them to develop important skills for enjoying our national game.

Many local Hawke’s Bay schools got involved in the Gala Day, with 29 different schools taking part in netball and 36 in rugby.

Unison General Manager Commercial, Jason Larkin said that Unison is always pleased to back local initiatives to enhance the wellbeing, health, and growth of young people among its communities.

“We’ve all been through a lot in Hawke’s Bay following Cyclone Gabrielle. More than ever, we need opportunities like the Gala Day to connect with and support each other especially our young ones. The Gala Day was just that, and was a chance for kids across the Bay to give something new a go.

“It’s an important event on the Unison Greatest Supporter programme calendar. The inclusive space which is provided for children of all skill levels is perfect for young people to have fun, be active and in some cases try something different.

“It’s always great to connect with our community. Spot prizes given out to the children on the day also help to reinforce important safety messages that keep children safe around our electrical assets,” Mr Larkin said.

Hawke’s Bay Netball General Manager, Denise Aiolupotea was stoked with the outcome of the day and was hopeful for the boys to continue to be involved in the game.

“It's fantastic to watch the boys play and it’s great to see many new players getting involved with the sport.

“In 2022, 52 netballs teams took part in the Gala Day and this year we increased to 63 teams. In the event’s third year, we’re still seeing an increase in participation which is amazing. The supportive environment for the boys is key to encourage them to give netball a go. We’re excited for many more young tāne to join our competitions this year which will include all boys grades in primary, intermediate and secondary school.

“Also, thanks to Napier Girls’ High School and Hastings Girls’ High School for supplying umpires. Their ongoing involvement is crucial in supporting schools unable to supply extra people for umpiring,” Mrs Aiolupotea said.

Hawke’s Bay Rugby CEO, Jay Campbell said the Unison Gala Day continues to be a huge success and provides girls with the opportunity to enjoy rugby within a supportive and fun driven space.

“This event provides an amazing opportunity for girls in Hawke’s Bay to give rugby a go and improve their skills. The rippa and sevens formats are a perfect way for girls to learn in a fun and safe environment. It’s important to us that all girls have the opportunity to take part and enjoy the day with their friends regardless if they’ve played rugby before or not.

“With the successful Women’s Rugby World Cup last year, there are more eyes than ever on the female game. The timing of the Gala Day was deliberate to provide our local schoolgirls a taste of rugby before the season kicks off. We hope to see many continuing to enjoy the game and play into the future.

“Thanks to the schools who provided the opportunity for girls and boys to try something different. A special mention to Hastings Boys’ High School for supplying referees every year and as always, huge gratitude to Unison for their ongoing support of not only rugby but junior sport across the Bay,” Mr Campbell said.

Originally a girls’ gala day with Hawke’s Bay Rugby only, in 2021 Hawke’s Bay Netball jumped on board to make it a fully inclusive event which saw the Unison Gala Day, formerly known as Switch Gala Day, come to life.

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