Country clubs flourishing under lights

The Maheno side takes a breather at halftime in its game against Old Boys at the Maheno Rugby...
The Maheno side takes a breather at halftime in its game against Old Boys at the Maheno Rugby Football Club on Friday night. PHOTOS: GREGOR RICHARDSON
It used to be the domain of the paid and powerful.

But now the hinterland and the grassroots of the game is getting in on the act.

Games being played under lights have always been around the sport but have taken on more precedence over the past couple of years.

In the Otago country area, more and more games are taking place at night as lights get installed and weekends become more valuable for players.

The opening of the duck-shooting season had games moved to darkness but night games are now becoming more than a once-a-season affair.

So far in the Southern region competition, seven out of 20 games played have been staged at night.

The Maheno grandstand is nearly full.
The Maheno grandstand is nearly full.
Maheno Rugby Football Club installed lights at its grounds in 2018 and plenty of games had been played since then at night. The side took on Old Boys under lights last Friday night.

Club president Michael Hore said the lights worked well for the club.

"We have got them for training as well as some of the weekends — like duck-shooting, or a long weekend where the guys want to get it over and done with as there are other things on," he said.

"Times have changed. Rugby used to be all you did in the weekend but there are other things on now."

He said the games appeared to be popular and the lights were of high quality. The lights cost between $80,000 and $90,000 to have installed.

Hore said a good crowd usually turned up to watch a night match although the bar takings were below what was usual on a Saturday.

Kurow had installed proper lights this year and had already played games under the new lights this season. With many of its players working on farms seven days a week, players found it easier to play at night.

West Taieri had installed lights last year to help with training and also host games.

The Maheno and Old Boys packs get ready to form a scrum.
The Maheno and Old Boys packs get ready to form a scrum.
The lights, which cost about $80,000, had given the club the option of staging games at night. The team had played the Thursday before Easter to get the game out of the way so players could have the holiday weekend off. It had then played a game against Clinton at Outram as the visiting club had wanted to play the game at night.

Club president Darryl McKenzie said the preference was to still play on the weekends. Depending on who the opponent was, a decent-sized crowd would turn up.

Clinton has had lights for many years and its preference this year was to play games at night.

The club was struggling to get enough for a team at the start of the season and when prospective players were asked to join the team, many said they could only play if it was played during the week.

The club had hosted games at night and also played away games during the week under lights.

Club committee member Ken Campbell said playing numbers would be impacted if the games were played every Saturday.

"A lot of guys have got other stuff going on in the weekend. They might want to go hunting, or be working, so can not play," he said.

"So far we have had good buy-in from other clubs. Some can not play during the week which is understandable."

There had been some good crowds turning out to the games during the week, which was another plus for the club.


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