Asia Pacific Dragons' threat fails to materialise - at least for now

A lot in sport is about perception versus reality: The fear of what is going to happen often turns out to be a worry about nothing, while what was supposed to be low-key becomes bigger than Texas.

So what category do the Asia Pacific Dragons fall into?

That depends who you talk to.

The Singapore-based side, which is coached by two Otago assistant coaches and has Otago players in it, finished its short season in the Rapid Rugby competition at the weekend with a 7-3 loss to the Western Force in Singapore.

The Dragons ended up with one win and three losses in their short season. The Dragons lost 42-10 to the Western Force in Perth and then fell to the South China Tigers 29-19 in Hong Kong. A week later the side had its only win of the season, a commanding 41-26 victory over the South China Tigers in Singapore.

The Dragons would now disband and scatter to various places around the globe.

Of the Otago players who played for the Dragons, hooker Sekonaia Pole started in every game, as did lock Joketani Koroi. Mitchell Scott, who joined the team late, was a constant figure and was said to be lively on the wing.

Halfback Kurt Hammer started the first couple of games and came off the bench in the side's only win over the Tigers, where rain made conditions tough for the players.

Flanker Naulia Dawai played mostly off the bench, as did Dunedin club player Zac Harrison-Jones, an outside back, who did score a try in the team's win over the Tigers.

Nothing was ever seen of halfback Melani Matavao, who played for Otago last year, while other players who were rumoured to be heading to Singapore simply did not get on the field.

What happens in the future is the biggest concern for those back in Otago.

Whether the Dragons can be part of a six month-long professional competition is still up for debate. There was more of a trickle than a flood of players leaving for Singaporean shores this season.

There was panic among clubs that many players would head off and play in these overseas competitions and then come back and play for Otago in the Mitre 10 Cup, bypassing the club season.

Last year it was suggested up to 25 players were heading off, but the reality was somewhat different.

Of those who went, Hammer and Scott may be the only ones heading back to play for Otago, although Koroi may also return.

Dragons head coach Ryan Martin, along with his assistant Lee Allan and trainer Karl Bloxham, will return home to Dunedin and Martin is expected to resume as an assistant coach for Otago.

The journey to Singapore next year will ultimately depend whether the Rapid Rugby competition gets off the ground, in its full glory. It was supposed to last for six months, but the Dragons ended up playing for four weeks in a shortened season.

Judging by the empty seats at the Singaporean stadium the Dragons have some work to do.


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