The 2023 CRL Junior Rugby League season gets underway on Saturday – and Whitehead Plumbing & Gas is on board for the fifth consecutive year as a valued naming rights sponsor.

Whitehead Plumbing & Gas have been behind Canterbury’s youth competitions since 2019 and have weathered the difficult period – for business and community sport – of COVID-19 solidly and their support for rugby league’s youngest entrants remains unwavering.

Whitehead Plumbing & Gas has proudly operated in Canterbury for 45 years and currently employs 25 staff of plumbers, gas fitters and drainers. The maintenance company services all plumbing, gas installation and drainage needs including light commercial, school facilities, bars, restaurants and architectural homes.

“We are very grateful for the support we are receiving from Whitehead Plumbing & Gas,” said Canterbury Rugby League CEO Malcolm Humm.

“Our junior program, which is increasingly enrolling girls, is fundamental to the sustainability of our sport. A key goal of the CRL 2023-26 Roadmap is to provide safe and enjoyable experiences for all, and this type of support certainly helps us achieve that desired outcome through coach development, operations, and event planning and execution.”

It was a sliding-door moment for Whitehead Plumbing & Gas general manager (now CEO) and avid Warriors fan Paul Olsen – coinciding with the unveiling of Ngā Puna Wai as the new home of the Canterbury Rugby League in 2019 – that led to the important and long-term ongoing partnership between the company and the juniors of CRL.

“The Warriors (NSW Cup) team was playing the (Canterbury) Bulls at Ngā Puna Wai and I saw that there was an opportunity to get a (personalized) Bulls jersey and tickets to the game for a $1,000 donation to get,” remembers Olsen.

“So that’s what I did and the rest is history… we signed a three-year deal and have been renewing it year after year.

Whitehead Plumbing & Gas’s Paul Olsen (right) with former CRL CEO Duane Fyfe at the start of the 2019 season.

“I like community sports, we have sponsored other sports over the years to give back to the community and the children. It’s about giving people the opportunity to play league. If you do not have sponsorship in these areas, many things for the game cannot be achieved or implemented.

“(Co-Managing Director) Mark Whitehead is a rugby man so he had to bite his tongue when signing with Canterbury Rugby League,” laughs Olsen, “but it was more about the opportunity to get our name out there and the younger one generation to support sport.”

Born and raised on the West Coast, Olsen played rugby league for Suburbs Club as a youngster.

Since being linked with Canterbury Rugby League, Whitehead Plumbing & Gas has renewed his association with the game as a player in the Papanui Tigers’ Masters team – “You’re still injured on Sunday morning, I can tell you that,” Olsen winces .

The Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Junior Rugby League season opener this weekend is extra special for Olsen as his four-year-old son prepares to make his debut for the Tigers in the Kindergarten class.

“He’s looking forward to being like dad and wearing the famous Tigers jersey – I think mum is a little nervous.”


As COVID-19 crashed grassroots sport in 2020, Canterbury Rugby League faced unprecedented challenges on a number of fronts – particularly from a financial and financial perspective.

But although Whitehead Plumbing & Gas was navigating uncharted waters as a company, the support of our juniors was unwavering. Ultimately, it was a time that strengthened the partnership and helped it thrive in smoother times.

“The two years (of COVID) were a bit tough, sales were down, more money was flowing out than in, so it would have been easy to limit those kinds of areas (like sponsorships),” admits Olsen.

“But I felt like we still had to do that. We got through it with the workload, we got through it with the staff… I felt it was really important to keep supporting Canterbury Rugby League during these times.

“And CRL also showed support for Whitehead Plumbing by reaching out and doing more than they were supposed to – putting our logo on the balls and hosting a few other small events when we had the opportunity.

“This type of sponsorship is a bit like a marriage, it has to work both ways and (CRL CEO) Malcolm (Humm) has done it really well making the most of supporting our company this year and last year.”

Olsen commended the Canterbury Rugby League for their commitment to the Whitehead Plumbing & Gas agreement and forward-looking initiatives.

He’s also excited about the direction the code is taking in the region.

“The CRL team did a great job. (former CEO) Duane (Fyfe) and Malcolm have always made me feel good and they’re always trying to embrace the league community but also to make the game better for next year – they’re always trying to do new things ‘ says Olsen.

“We are not a stagnant game. The numbers go up and down but rugby league has a strong community – that’s what I like about it. I like playing the game because I like the people around me. I think it’s changed a little bit and for the better over the years and I’m excited to see how it turns out in the years to come.

“We have a strong (region) in Canterbury and some great players coming through. It’s exciting to see where they could possibly be in the years to come. If I could say there were a few juniors from my comp that I supported and they became NRL stars, it would be pretty cool to sit back and watch.