Rugby development in spotlight

GAME DEVELOPER: Mid Canterbury Rugby Union game development manager Blair Baxter has been getting out among the rugby community.
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Former Canterbury Farah Palmer Cup head coach Blair Baxter has been appointed game development manager at Mid Canterbury Rugby.

His role is to look at ways to grow involvement in the sport.

Baxter started last week and has hit the ground running.

He has already visited Rakaia and Celtic rugby clubs and has more club visits planned.

Baxter last year spent seven months in Beijing, China, as women’s rugby sevens assistant coach for the China Rugby Football Association. The side won the gold at the Asian Games in September.

However he was happy to be back in Canterbury, and in the role with Mid Canterbury Rugby Union.

‘‘Rugby possesses the unique ability to unite communities, instil values of teamwork and respect, and provide avenues for personal growth and triumph,’’ he said.

‘‘I am enthusiastic about collaborating with our stakeholders to broaden access to the sport and empower individuals from all walks of life to engage, learn, and flourish through rugby.’’

Mid Canterbury Rugby chief executive Tanya Dearns said Baxter would play a pivotal role in furthering the organisation’s mission to bolster and expand the sport within the community.

‘‘Blair will spearhead various initiatives aimed at encouraging rugby participation, refining skill sets, and nurturing an environment of inclusivity and excellence, both within our organisation and beyond,’’ she said.

Baxter has six years experience in a similar role at Canterbury Rugby Union and excelled in all facets of player and coach development.

His successes included as both a club and representative player, as well as a high-performance coach in both Farah Palmer Cup and Super Aupiki.

‘‘In 2022, his achievements were further recognised when he was named Women’s Coach of the Year at the 2022 NZ Rugby awards,” Dearns said.

“Blair’s exceptional leadership as head coach of Matatu led them to secure the 2023 Super Aupiki title in just their second year, a testament to his coaching prowess.’’

‘‘We extend a warm welcome to Blair. His unwavering passion for rugby and steadfast commitment to excellence are poised to spark positive transformations and inspire forthcoming generations of players and coaches,’’ she said.

‘‘We eagerly anticipate the remarkable opportunities and accomplishments that will unfold under Blair’s guidance.’’