Problematic premier club draw settled

Dunedin premier club rugby is set for an early finish next winter.

And this time, every game will count.

Paul Dwyer. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Paul Dwyer. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Earlier this year, the nine premier teams played a half round at the beginning of the season but the points from those fixtures were not carried through. That rendered those games meaningless.

The other major complaint was the Otago representative players were not available for the playoffs.

Council of Rugby Clubs chairman Paul Dwyer said the feedback in the end-of-season survey provided a ‘‘clear mandate’’.

‘‘The clubs want Otago players playing in the finals,’’ Dwyer said.

To make that happen, the premier grade has to be completed at least three weeks before the start of the NPC, which is expected to start the first weekend in August.

‘‘So we’ll be starting in the last weekend of March and finishing on July 16 with the final.’’

The mid-July finish is two weeks earlier than the competition finished this year.

It also means premier teams that do not make the playoffs will be done in late June, which is awfully early.

The clubs have agreed to the playing window but there is still some problem-solving to be done around the draw.

‘‘It is complicated when you’ve got nine teams. Some teams will end up having two byes and some teams will have one bye.’’

It is awkward because five teams will have played 12 round-robin games and the other four will have played 13.

‘‘We’ll just have to come up with a formula that is fair. There is no easy answer to this.’’

The other grades will finish on August 14, which means there will be a month between the premier grade final and the finals of the other grades.

‘‘Look, I’m not happy with this outcome,’’ Dwyer said.

‘‘But it is what the clubs wanted, so that is what is in place.

‘‘From my personal point of view, three teams will be finished in late June which I don’t think is a great idea.

‘‘As we know, without prem teams in clubs, clubs die.’’

Dwyer said the survey of players, coaches and managers showed they preferred to have Otago representative players available.

But that meant starting earlier, which conflicted with the clubs’ wishes to start after Easter.

A draft draw has been completed but it will be released once the Council of Rugby Clubs has settled on a points structure.

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