Southland to double size of top club tier

Scott Eade
Scott Eade
Southland's club competition is doubling in size as the union tries to lift standards within the club game.

Southland's club rugby competitions have been given an overhaul ahead of the 2019 season, which starts on March 23.

In a move that was club-driven, there will be 12 teams in the premier division, a doubling from last year. It will be made up of the six premier division teams from last season and the top six division one teams from last season.

The six division one teams stepping up from last year are: Wyndham, Midlands, Edendale, Waikaka, Riversdale, and Te Anau.

Wyndham won division one last year, and team manager Mike Henderson said his team was excited to get the chance to test itself in the top flight, and push for higher individual honours.

''Our players will now be more likely to be seen by selectors and considered for representative teams, all without having to leave their beloved blue jersey behind,'' he said.

Scott Eade, who captained Marist to Galbraith Shield victory during the last two years, said with the performances of the Stags in recent years, and with the way club rugby was declining in Southland and across the country, something needed to change.

The decline Eade had noticed was mostly to do with the reduction in player numbers. A couple of premier grade teams were light on numbers at times, which effected quality.

The reorganised premier competition will have two pools of six that play each other once, and then the top three from each pool will go on to 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, to contest the Ack Soper Shield.

The format will see a doubling of the pool of visible players playing at a top level.

In the division one competition there will be eight teams contesting the Gerald Dermody Shield, with each team playing each other home and away before finals.

In the division two competition there was expected to be as many as 13 teams in the fray, with the naming of this competition still to be confirmed, but Cullen said the clubs needed to get entries in before February 18 deadline.

The brief given to clubs after last season was to look at what was good for Southland Rugby and how to create a pathway for players to play in their own communities.

-By John Langford

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