Contentious off-season at end

Varsity were impressive in their win over Alhambra Union last weekend. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Varsity and Alhambra Union in action last season. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
We're back

Polish the boots, wash the jerseys and shorts, soak the mouthguard in petrol and strap in - REAL RUGBY starts tomorrow.

What an off-season we've had. In all my years of commenting, writing and making stuff up about club rugby we have never had such a contentious, clandestine-meeting-laden off-season.

And where have we got to from all that? Well I'm not sure but it will unfold over the next few weeks.

So what has happened?

The Metro prem clubs weren't happy with what happened last year with no Otago players available for playoffs. They weren't happy with the numbers coming into the game from secondary school and felt we were putting too many "blocks" in the path of young players just wanting to play rugby.

After much angst and meetings with the ORFU it was resolved that finals day at the stadium was here to stay and Otago players would be available. There are four finals in the stadium on July 27 - prems, prem 2s, prem colts and junior colts. Rules concerning junior colts have been relaxed so kids can just play.

New Zealand Rugby then decided to start the Mitre 10 Cup a week earlier so back to meetings we did go. Oh, and the small matter of the Ranfurly Shield - while fantastic - hasn't helped either.

Then we've got the advent of professional rugby comps starting (with a lot more to come) with a mysterious Otago coach involved in signing them up. Where does it all end?

So where are we at now?

Prem rugby has been shortened by a week so only one full round robin. The first pre-season Ranfurly Shield game is being played the same day as the last round of club rugby and the second will be played just before finals weekends. There are no winners here.

The good news is the clubs have never been more united about the grassroots game which is teetering on the abyss and to that end now want direct representation on the board of the ORFU, adding two members to the eight-member board, aiming to strengthen the board. It will be discussed at the AGM next week. The clubs have also tabled discussion on having clear pathways for club players into Otago Rugby. It promises to be a meeting of massive interest - get along to the Eels' club next Wednesday night!

Let's talk code

Let's make some predictions after perusing the supposed squads.

Varsity-- Should win this comp in a canter even without Hill and Dickson away with NZ Colts. Depth is good even with the deep pockets of Kaik and Taieri circling. They win.

Harbour - They've named a lot of players who aren't physically here. Abramovich has been splashing the cash and they have Morris and Halaleva back so will make the four.

Taieri - Also splashing the cash with a big lock in Ben Morris arriving from Chch, new backs aplenty and the Godfather Casey is back from swimming the Ruataniwha so make the four.

Kaik - Have most of the Otago coaches recruiting so must go good. Have flogged Blackman from Varsity plus most of Otago Boys' so could go all the way - same top four as last year.

Southern - A club in rebuild and depth will be tested. Big pack but backs look thin so sixth at best.

Dunedin - Has promoted a lot of colts, front row numbers are a bit thin, a new midfield with Reihana and Te Amo but new coaches Mowat and Maguire need to shoot over to Forbury and get some greyhounds out wide. Fifth or sixth at best.

GI - Have been flashing a "golf-sized" chequebook and much to the ire of some other clubs which shall remain nameless but possibly live on the high veldt. Moeahu has been training them since Aug 1 so will go as high as fifth.

Alhambra-Union & Zingers --Alas will fight for the prized spoon with honours going to Zingers.

Then again I could be wrong.

You wouldn't read ...

So Dunedin's best real estate agent and AU heavy was shouted a cruise by his short-sighted son and fellow real estate agent. Thinking he was sailing around the Bahamas on day three he ended up at Port Chalmers and when asked by the steward what sights he was taking in in Dunedin, he replied: " I'm going home to mow the lawns". True story!

This Weekend

Big changes to the picking comp but more next week. Up against Dunedin's best publican and sponsor of this section from the Speight's Ale House. The Spannerheads (13+) need to thrash the Broncos at the Toolbox to justify the expense. Kaik should win at the High Veldt but the Hawks (12-) can fly so the upset is on. Varsity (13+) too good for the Magpies. The Sharks (13+) at the Sandpit are just the big kid on the block over Zingers.See you round the traps.

 - Paul Dwyer


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