Format needs to be resolved quickly

Competition overhaul needed

So it is finals weekend tomorrow at the Greenhouse between Varsity and Harbour and it promises to be a cracking affair based on semifinal results. But how much better could it have been had the Otago players been available - especially Harbour's considering they are missing five of their starting pack?

What's done is done but we need to find a solution quickly for next season. The clubs need to resolve as a group what the season needs to look like and then sit down with the ORFU and nut out the details. This needs to happen within the next two or three weeks, not in five months.

I understand the clubs want to resolve this quickly. There will need to be compromise on both sides but if we agree the finishing date needs to be the last Saturday in July (or a week earlier at a pinch) we can put a structure together from there.

There have been positives this year. Nearly all rugby has been played on Saturdays. We have a massive finals weekend across most grades tomorrow.

We've had home semifinals. The situation could change if the comp is reduced to eight teams if Harbour merges with Zingari-Richmond or Alhambra-Union (more on that shortly). The majority of unions have all rep players available for finals so is there a reason we can't? Let's hope we have a resolution by the end of the month.

The prem colts comp also has to be resolved. It didn't work as well as hoped this year. Again the clubs involved need to sit down as a group and come up with a solution and present to the union as a fait accompli. It can't be that hard- let's make it happen.

Finals festival

t's on tomorrow at the Greenhouse. The action starts at 11.15am with the colts final between Varsity and Kaikorai. Then on to the prem II final at 1.30pm between West Taieri and Dunedin at 1.30pm and culminating with the Speight's Shield between Varsity and Harbour.

It doesn't end there - there are also under-8 games and a race to find the fastest junior player in Dunedin. The ODT slab will be open all day with beer and food stalls, free beer for all life members of clubs, bands and interviews with club heavies reviewing their seasons. You can't afford to miss it. Bring the family. The charge is $5 (cash) for adults and all kids free. See you there.

How do the finals unfold?

West Taieri is unbeaten all year in prem IIs and takes on the Sharks, having already beaten them twice this year. The first game was a very tight affair at Outram on a grimy old day and Wests just got home. In the second at the Sandpit, the Sharks went out to an early lead but Wests' superior fitness got it home late.

Wests has a workmanlike pack with a solid scrum and a competent but not flashy backline. The Sharks are mercurial, to say the least, with a mixture of grizzled veterans and pimply-faced youths who on their day are world beaters. I suspect Wests' fitness and simple game plan get the side home, just.

After squeaking past Kaik, Varsity will go into the prem final as favourite. Not many picked decimated Harbour to get past the Eels but it delivered in spades. Varsity's set pieces are impressive and it will win enough ball. It has pace to burn and, if it gets the energiser bunny into the game in the form of Taylor Haugh, it is irrepressible.

Harbour will have to get its big pack into the game and dominate with its explosive ball runners in the form of the Pole brothers, George Bower and Charles Elton. If Harbour can dominate and get momentum then flyhalf Logan Allen can unleash his direct ball runners in Samasoni and Brumwell. Harbour has never won the banner, despite being in the final seven times since being formed in 1992. The watersiders are aching to win just one before amalgamation and they deserve it, especially with the thousands Lance ''Abramovich'' Spence has poured in. But I suspect it is not to be and Varsity's all-round game and pace should get it done. But you never know! Is Port Chalmers ready for a win?

Final mutterings

Abramovich is still trying to hawk amalgamation to all and sundry. He has been turned down by Pirates, as previously discussed, but is in negotiations with Zingari and Alhambra-Union. I don't think Harbour will get a deal done with AU but Zingari seems a possibility, given its parlous state. Harbour is determined to get a deal done somewhere, so I'll keep you informed.

Varsity will win the Ainge Trophy for the best all-round club as it potentially will win four grades this year, which is unheard of. Special congrats to their prem colts and women for going unbeaten this year. Throw in congrats to West Taieri, which is unbeaten this year, as well. Finally what about Clutha?The champ in the south and unbeaten for four years - now that is longevity. Also big ups to Upper Clutha for winning its first banner in 39 years. Good things come to those who wait.

This weekend

Up against the man himself, Lance ''Abramovich'' Spence this weekend. Varsity (12-) has been the best team all year and should get it done this weekend over Harbour. But I'd love the Hawks to win one finally. Have a great summer and I'll keep some ODT Rugby Chats going over the Otago season to keep you informed. Ciao.

paul.dwyer@alliedpress.co.nz

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