Throughout the 70’s and 80’s rugby on the Coast was strong. The Coast was thriving.
Farms were smaller and labour intensive, and there were four dairy factories between Okato and Opunake. This meant there was a ready supply of players and Opunake and Okato were competitive in the Senior Division (Okato winning the McMasters shield in 1975 and 1977) and Rahotu were top of the Second Division.
The late 80’s saw some changes. Factories closed, farms got bigger and employed less workers and the working week extended into Saturday. The proud clubs battled on but all three struggled for both numbers and meaningful results. While this was no doubt painful for the loyal spectators the players felt it more. There was whispered talk amongst senior players of doing the unthinkable and joining forces with the old foes. At the time, especially within the older generation, the very notion was blasphemous. Generations had battled on the field and the parochialism remained strong. However it was the current crop of players who drove the change. Such was the feeling that any meaningful discussion had to be cloak and dagger. A clandestine meeting between senior players at Smiley Barrett’s place confirmed the players commitment to join forces.
That same year, due to numbers, Rahotu and Opunake combined to form an Under 19 team and for the first time a hybrid jersey was worn. The success of this team proved the concept could work and it was full steam ahead for a total amalgamation in 1995. The first season saw the Club enter teams in the Senior Grade, Senior Development, a Senior third and Senior fourth team and Colts. The venture was an immediate success with players on the Coast able to play in a team according to their ability and Coast supporters were pleased to see the Senior team (coached by Greame Mourie) competitive from the outset. Off the field the venture was huge on the Coast and many a debate was held around local drinking establishments with some dyed in the wool (mainly older) folk convinced it was a mistake and the clubs could soldier on. However the appointment of the “Godfather” of Coastal Rugby, Bernie Fleming, was defining. There were concerns that the committee would be hijacked by affiliates to one or another of the original clubs and favoritism extend that way. Bernie was seen as impartial. He didn’t have a huge rugby background; he was more of a racing man. It was apparent to everyone that Bernie had Coastal Rugby at heart and his leadership and respect transitioned the club seamlessly through what could have been a difficult time. Socially the amalgamation pulled the Coast together like no other venture could have. Quickly associates became firm friends as they played in the same team together and supporters cheered for the one club.
The club has matured over the years to be an integral part of the Taranaki club rugby landscape. We have accumulated several titles across the three Senior Divisions and remain one of only a few clubs to field teams in every division. We have produced numerous representative players and a couple of All Blacks. At a time when other clubs are struggling for numbers ours are steady to increasing. Demographically the situation has changed from the original set up with as many as half our players living out of the area. The entire success of the club hinges on the incredible loyalty these (original local) players show by travelling past other club options and making their way to Rahotu for training. Our players are fiercely competitive on the field but laid back and keen for a beer and a laugh off it. The club has a driven committee and is socially active with events well patronised.
With a far sighted committee years ago venturing into the farming business Coastal have gone from leasing a farm to farm ownership with the purchase in 2014 of a 80 Hectare farm up Kina Road, Oaonui. Proudly we are the only Club in New Zealand with such an asset and while current focus remains on debt reduction we are in a position to remain financially secure for the foreseeable future.