Pathway to spot at nationals

It is going to be a bumper weekend for a sport that is trending upwards in Otago.

Rugby league will take over Miller Park for the Otago Nines tournament on Saturday and an age grade tournament on Sunday.

"The main focus is really the Sunday for the juniors" Otago Rugby League chairman Ricki Allan said.

"But it’s also good for the seniors to be able to play a bit of nines on the Saturday.

"We’ve got women’s teams for that as well, which is really cool."

The women’s field for the nines tournament features Otago, Southland and the Linwood Keas, from Christchurch.

Southland had not had a women’s team for some years, Allan said.

"Otago also hasn’t really had a consistent chance to get a women’s team up and running, so this is a good opportunity for them."

The men’s side of the nines features the three main clubs: Kia Toa Tigers, South Pacific Raiders and Otago University.

All teams play each other twice in games that feature nine players on each side and nine-minute halves.

Sunday’s tournament is for under-16 and under-18 boys and girls based on school teams.

Otago Boys’ High School, Otago Girls’ High School, John McGlashan College, South Otago High School and Columba College have entered teams, which has delighted organisers.

The tournament is part of the new pathway created by New Zealand Rugby League.

Tournaments would be held at district, regional (South Island) and national levels, Allan said.

"It used to be that Otago players, for example, would have to fight for a place in the Southern Zone team if they wanted to play at a national tournament.

"This is quite a cool way. What they’re doing now is the districts compete at a regional tournament, and the top two districts get to go to the nationals.

"So there’s a good chance we will have Otago teams competing at national tournaments, which is really cool for us."

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