Marist among favourites in new-look competition

Marist claimed its second Galbraith Shield title in as many years on Saturday with a 38-13 win...
Marist celebrate their Galbraith Shield win last year. Photo: Logan Savory
Marist is going for a Galbraith Shield hat-trick when Southland club rugby kicks off tomorrow.

There are 12 teams in contention this year as the competition doubles in size but Marist looms as one of the favourites.

The death of Marist club stalwart Jeff Murdoch in January has further galvanised the team and the club.

Murdoch was involved with the club for 41 years, and a life member. He was on the committee from 1984 until he died this year, aged 76.

The Spartans 10s tournament in Dunedin in early February provided a good first hit-out for Marist.

The side won one game and narrowly lost the next two.

It also had a good work-out at the South Island Marist tournament in Timaru, earlier this month.

Marist does not have a premier squad as such, training its premier team and B team together as one group.

It does have a long list of players capable of excelling in the top grade but will rely heavily on the entire group, especially during the early stages of the season.

The Marist premier team has several injuries and other players out for tomorrow's game in Te Anau. The absentees include loose forwards Phil Halder and Pasilio Tosi.

Te Anau will have plenty to play for and is bound to have plenty of home town support. But it is a big step up for the team on the lake and it will not be easy first up against Marist.

The six premier division teams from last season competition have been joined by the top six division one teams. There are two pools of six teams that will play each other once, and then the top three from each pool will contest the Walter Galbraith Shield, playing each other home and away before semifinals and finals.

The bottom three from the two pools will follow the same format in contesting the Ack Soper Shield.

How it pans out will be interesting, as Southland Rugby tries to boost the standard of the competition, which will hopefully help the representative sides.

The division one and two competitions begin next weekend.

In the other two games in pool A games tomorrow, Midlands will take on Eastern Northern Barbarians and Edendale faces Woodlands.

In pool B, Riversdale plays Star, Wyndham will face Blues and Waikaka meets Pirates Old Boys.

 - John Langford 

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