Hurricanes (rugby union)
|Union||New Zealand Rugby Union|
|Location||Wellington, New Zealand|
|Ground(s)||Westpac Stadium 36,000
FMG Stadium 15,000
McLean Park 22,000
The Hurricanes (formerly known as the Wellington Hurricanes) are a New Zealand professional Rugby union team based in Wellington that competes in the Super Rugby competition. The team represents the East Coast, Hawke's Bay, Horowhenua Kapiti, Manawatu, Poverty Bay, Wairarapa-Bush, Wanganui and Wellington unions, and currently plays at Westpac Stadium, having previously played at the now-defunct Athletic Park.
The Hurricanes were formed to represent the lower North Island with the conception of the Super 12 competition in 1996, which featured teams from New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. The Hurricanes had a poor first season, but rebounded in 1997 with a third placing. The team did not reach the play-offs for another five years as the team struggled in the bottom four of the table. Since 2003 the Hurricanes have made the post-season play-offs five times out of the last eight seasons; including the 2006 final, which they lost in horrendously foggy weather against the Crusaders 19-12.
- 1 History
- 2 Honours
- 3 Franchise area
- 4 Grounds
- 5 Fanbase
- 6 Ownership and Finances
- 7 Season-by-Season Summary
- 8 Players
- 9 Players and coaches of note
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Early years: 1996–97
The Hurricanes were formed in 1996 as one of five New Zealand Super 12 teams, and were originally called the "Wellington Hurricanes". The Hurricanes region comprises the lower North Island. Its catchment area of 920,000 people is the largest in New Zealand, they even somehow have more than the Blues despite Auckland having 1.4 million people. The team's first coach was former All Black Frank Oliver while Mark "Bull" Allen was named as captain. Their first match, played at Palmerston North Showgrounds against the Auckland Blues, was the first ever Super Rugby match. They lost it 36-28. The team performed below expectations in the inaugural year of the competition and finished ninth. In 1997 the team made the semi-finals, losing in Canberra to the ACT Brumbies. However the consistent form shown during this season would not be seen again for many years.
Expect the unexpected: 1998–2002
Following their 1997 season, the Hurricanes failed to qualify for the semi-finals until 2003. Despite this, they were still known for the attacking nature of their backline that included the All Blacks stars Tana Umaga and Christian Cullen. The team played with flair and could score at any moment, whatever their position on the field, giving rise to the teams catch cry of 'expect the unexpected'. However the team struggled for consistent performances and at crunch time in matches, leading to patchy form and results.
After the 1999 World Cup, Jonah Lomu's contract with the NZRU expired he was linked to many clubs around the world, in rugby league as well as union and also the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. On 23 November 1999 it was announced that the winger had resigned from the NZRU and agreed terms with the Wellington Rugby Union, despite a reported a £1.1 million offer by Bristol. The move to the Wellington union meant he could be included in the protected group of players for the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes also opened 2000 with a new stadium. The highlights of that year included the victory over eventual champions the Crusaders, 41-29, in front of a packed house. At the end of the season the 'Canes still had a mathematical chance of making the semis and only had to beat the Bulls to stay in contention. However, the Hurricanes played one of their worst games of the year, losing the match to one of the worst performing teams at that point in the competition's history and lost the possibility of qualifying for the semi-finals. The team finished eighth on the table.
Despite the Wellington Lions (whom most of the Hurricanes squad were chosen from) winning the 2000 NPC, the Hurricanes finished ninth in the final standings in 2001; one worse than the year before. Another ninth placing in 2002 resulted in Graham Mourie, who had led the team since 2000, resigning.
New era: 2003–
|This section requires expansion with: Information from 2006 onward. (September 2011)|
In spite of reports that Colin Cooper, the then Crusaders assistant-coach, had said he was "not yet ready to jump ship" and wanted to stay with the South Island franchise, the Hurricanes were able to lure him away from the champions and made him their head coach for the 2003 season.
Cooper, along with newly appointed captain Tana Umaga, helped to mould the inconsistent and ill-disciplined Hurricanes into one of the top teams in the competition. 2003 was the beginning of a new era for the Hurricanes as they reached the semi-finals for just the second time in their history on the back of a strong seven-game winning streak mid-season. Their success came partly with the breakout year for mid-fielder Ma'a Nonu, his strong performances and partnership with captain Tana Umaga pushed out former All Black Pita Alatini and saw him score six tries en route to the All Black squad. The team also benefited from the steady hand of David Holwell at first five-eighth and an improving and mobile forward pack. Hurricanes stalwart Christian Cullen would leave New Zealand shores for Irish club Munster after his omission from the All Blacks 2003 World Cup squad, despite scoring eight tries during the season.
2004 wasn't quite the year that the coaches, players and fans alike wanted but it laid the platform for the next year, with the majority of the team being retained including new centre Conrad Smith. The Hurricanes came back in 2005 to the form that saw them make the playoffs two years prior. Former New Zealand Colt Flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth was the real "find" of the season, scoring 139 points after much fuss was made about a suitable replacement for Ireland-bound David Holwell. The Hurricanes had tried their hand at getting Australian playmaker Brock James, who had starred the previous NPC season for Taranaki and the Blues, and young star Luke McAlister made some noise about his preference of playing in Wellington. With both Daniel Carter and Aaron Mauger at the Crusaders capable of playing first five-eighth the team also made an attempt to lure Andrew Mehrtens to Wellington, without success.
2006 saw the entry of two new teams to the competition, the Bloemfontein-based Central Cheetahs from South Africa and the Perth-based Western Force from Australia, and the Super 14 was born. The Hurricanes welcomed a new captain with Rodney So'oialo stepping up after former All Black captain Tana Umaga wanted to focus more on his playing duties. The team again played solidly, winning all but four matches. They made their first Super Rugby final losing against perennial powerhouse the Crusaders in a bizarre match played under thick fog. Following the match an incident in a nightclub involving Chris Masoe and Tana Umaga caused a stir in the media. The successful 2006 season saw the Hurricanes turn over NZ$7.44 million which resulted in a NZ$1.36 million profit.
The Hurricanes returned to the semi-finals in both 2008 and 2009, however were unable to capture the same success in subsequent seasons. 2011 saw the arrival of Mark Hammett as coach, and the subsequent departure of icons Andrew Hore, Ma'a Nonu and Piri Weepu.
Super 12/14 (1996 - 2010)
- Runners-Up (1)
- Playoff Appearances (5)
The team represents the East Coast, Poverty Bay, Hawke's Bay, Wanganui, Manawatu, Wairarapa-Bush, Horowhenua-Kapiti and Wellington unions. In 2013, Taranaki severed its ties with the franchise, signing over its allegiance to the Chiefs.
The Hurricanes play the majority of their home matches at the 34,500 capacity Westpac Stadium on Wellington's waterfront. The stadium is affectionately known as The Cake-Tin in Wellington and throughout New Zealand due to its shape. It was opened in 2000 to replace Athletic Park, where the team had been previously based. Arena Manawatu in Palmerston North and McLean Park in Napier have also played host to Hurricanes matches.
In the initial years of the competition the Hurricanes played once, or occasionally twice, away from their Wellington base depending on whether they had five or six games per year. Such a policy was welcomed given the large geographic area that the team was drawn from. However, in recent years the team has seldom ventured from Wellington, despite the expansion to 14 and now 15 teams meaning two additional games per year.
The Hurricanes had amongst the most loyal fans in the competition in the early and middle years of the Super 12. In recent years, support has declined with significantly poorer crowds at Westpac Stadium. This decline in support was exacerbated in 2011, with the announcement of the departure of several notable players for the 2012 season. Other influences of note in the support base include the Wellington centredness of the franchise, as games held in the other provinces in the catchment, have been few and far between, as have players from these provinces. For these two reasons, support has declined rapidly for the Hurricanes.
Ownership and Finances
In 2012, it was announced that a new company, Hurricanes' Investment Ltd Partnership, had purchased a license from the NZRU to operate the club. Whilst the NZRU retains ownership of the team, as well as control of the contracts of the players and head coach, the licensee is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations. Hurricanes' Investment Ltd Partnership is a joint venture between the Wellington Rugby Football Union and a consortium of private investors, led by noted economist and author Gareth Morgan.
|Super 12 Results|
|1997||11||6||0||5||416||314||+102||10||34||3rd||Lost semi-final to Brumbies 33 - 20|
|2003||11||7||0||4||324||277||+47||7||35||3rd||Lost semi-final to Crusaders 39 - 16|
|2005||11||8||0||3||281||248||+33||2||34||4th||Lost semi-final to Crusaders 47 - 7|
|Super 14 Results|
|2006||13||10||0||3||328||226||+102||7||47||2nd||Lost final to Crusaders 19 - 12|
|2008||13||8||1||4||310||204||+106||7||41||3rd||Lost semi-final to Crusaders 33 - 22|
|2009||13||9||0||4||380||279||+101||8||44||3rd||Lost semi-final to Chiefs 14 - 10|
|Super Rugby Results|
|2011||16||5||2||9||328||398||-70||10||42||4th Conference / 9th Overall|
|2012||16||10||0||6||489||429||+60||9||57||3rd Conference / 8th Overall|
|2013||16||6||0||10||386||457||–71||9||41||4th Conference / 11th Overall|
First Five-Eighths (Fly-halves)
1 Wider Training Group players
2 Players signed as injury cover
(c) denotes team captain
Bold denotes that player is internationally capped
Players and coaches of note
Internationally Capped Players
- Conrad Smith (75 caps)
- Cory Jane (45 caps)
- Ben Franks (31 caps)
- Victor Vito (22 caps)
- Julian Savea (20 caps)
- Beauden Barrett (16 caps)
- Dane Coles (15 caps)
- Jason Eaton (15 caps)
- Tusi Pisi (14 caps)
- Samisoni Fisilau (13 caps)
- Inoke Afeaki*
- Mark "Bull" Allen
- Sireli Bobo
- Jerry Collins
- Aaron Cruden
- Christian Cullen
- Jason Eaton
- Tamati Ellison
- Bryn Evans
- Hosea Gear
- David Holwell
- Andrew Hore
- Alama Ieremia
- Jonah Lomu
- Ma'a Nonu
- John Schwalger
- Gordon Slater
- Rodney So'oialo
- Jason Spice
- Neemia Tialata
- Filo Tiatia
- Tana Umaga
- Kupu Vanisi
- Dion Waller
- Piri Weepu
- Mark "Bull" Allen (1996–98)
- Tana Umaga (2003–05)
- Rodney So'oialo (2006–09)
- Andrew Hore (2010–11)
- Conrad Smith (2012– )