Battle of the Bridge off, for now

Last year, well over 1000 people donned their rain gear to head along to watch the Leamington Loonies take on the Hautapu Hopefools, with the final score 17 all.

A raft of injuries to the senior rugby players along with increasing work and family commitments has seen the cancellation of this year’s Battle of the Bridge, the annual grudge match between Leamington and Hautapu that traditionally draws big crowds.

The event, which started in 2011 and included rugby, netball and a tug of war, was scheduled for tomorrow, but co-organiser Mark Nogaj said there were just not enough rugby players able to take the field this time.

Already pushing it to make up a team, the pre-game against Hamilton team Suburbs proved to be the last straw for the senior rugby players, with a number injured and unable to compete further. The casualties included Mark, who has done his rotator cuff and will require an operation.

All of this is proof that while the mind may be willing, perhaps the body can’t always live up to expectations.

In any event, this will not be the last Cambridge will see of the Battle of the Bridge, with Mark and other organisers looking to reinvent the fixture for next year. “We are keen to keep the event going, and this (the cancellation) will enable us to change the event to a full-day family event and possibly a function at night, to raise money for charities in Cambridge,” an upbeat Mark explained.

Ideally the event will have something for people of all ages and abilities, and might even include some master’s rugby, albeit in a shorter format, he added.

A public meeting will be called before Christmas to gather ideas for next year, which will be followed by another meeting next year to look at the way forward. “Next year’s event will be huge,” Mark said, adding that already some great ideas have come from the disappointment of this year’s cancellation.

If you have something you’d like to see included in next year’s Battle of the Bridge family event, please email your ideas to

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