West Taieri set to rise up a level

The West Taieri club will rack up more than a few extra hours of travel next season.

Its top team is set to play in the South Otago premier rugby competition.

Having had several successful years since moving into the metropolitan premier two grade, the club has decided the move could be a "shot in the arm".

Club president Darryl McKenzie said it was something different and some previous players had indicated they would be keen to return for it.

The increased profile of having its top team in a premier grade would help with that, as well as helping off the field.

"It's just that whole premier two grade - it's potentially looked down on by some clubs and some players to a degree.

"It's harder to recruit players and coaches - it's a grade in limbo in some regards and it has been for a long time."

Another problem was "having our main game at 1pm doesn't help the club atmosphere".

"A lot of supporters will go and watch a premier game somewhere else."

The country teams could help with numbers in the clubrooms afterwards, he said.

They would travel and remain after the game, which did not tend to happen in the premier two grade.

The move had been well-supported, McKenzie said.

After an initial approach from South Otago, the West Taieri players and club members had been keen to give it a try.

A further bonus would be the chance for players to make the Otago Country rep team.

It was a decision made in consultation with the Otago Rugby Football Union.

While the ORFU was unhappy about losing a metropolitan team, it was happy if it meant more players would be playing in Otago.

McKenzie did not feel travel would be too much of a barrier.

He said bus trips home were always fun and the later start time for games meant players would not have to leave any earlier than they already did.

Standard-wise, he said the club was unsure what to expect.

He thought it might be towards the bottom end of the Dunedin premier grade and the top end of the premier two grade.

That would give the side plenty of competitive games and it was under no illusion that it could walk in and dominate.

West Taieri finished third in the premier two grade this year.

It won in 2017 and played Green Island in a promotion-relegation match to move into the top grade at the end of that season.

That game was lost 37-17.

Meanwhile the club's second team would continue playing in the senior metropolitan grade.


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