The Tukapa Rugby Club is now officially part of the United States.
Just a couple of minutes’ walk from Stadium Taranaki in New Plymouth, the club is the official home of USA rugby fans, and has put out the red carpet for the cranks from Yankdom.
Honing in on its 125th anniversary, Tukapa is one of the most accomplished clubs in Taranaki, boasting a long series of union grand final appearances (and frustrating losses) before starting a run of championships a few years ago that continues to this day.
Their run several age grades and adult grades. Their 4th grade is a social team; older players who get together for touch once a week and go play on a Saturday.
“It’s supposed to be social,” said club VP Ian Morris with a tilt of the head. “But … well we keep winning, so I don’t know how social you can call it.”
They have about 250 kids in their youth programs, and the kids show up every Saturday morning for a 9am assembly, often with a former All Black or current Taranaki provincial player there to speak. Whatever the agenda, the day always begins with the club song – the Ballad of the Cast Iron Chicken.
The story of the Cast Iron Chicken goes back many years when, so says Morris, some Tukapa players stopped for a meal post-match. The chicken they ate was not the tenderest, and that evening they composed a song. A tradition was born, and a mascot created.
One recent year Tukapa won championships in three of their four grades – it was The Year of the Chicken.
Obviously, then, Tukapa doesn’t take itself overly seriously. They have enjoyed hosting the American fans in their impressive two-storey clubhouse. Post-match after the Ireland game the place was packed, with fans dressed as Wonder Woman, Captain American, and, of course, Elvis. Plenty of Irish were there too – they know a good time when they hear it.
“The band’s going to be good,” boasted Morris. “I should know, I booked ‘em.”
American fans were beside themselves. The hospitality offered them has been first-rate; New Zealand’s communities are proud to host their teams, and the USA could not have found a better place to call home.