Not all bad at club level but action must be taken

The club season was a tightly contested competition at the top. But are the cracks are beginning to widen? Club rugby writer Adrian Seconi looks at the issues from both sides.

GLASS HALF FULL

The draw -

The best players got to play in the final rather than being mothballed while waiting for the Otago season to get under way like last year. It added to the quality of a tremendous match.

Player depth -

Every year we hear the players are thinning out, yet every year we are surprised by the quality of rookies coming through. Teenage Harbour prop Saula Ma'u was one of the better players to emerge.

He made such a big impression Otago has signed the 18-year-old to a three-year deal.

Playing standard -

The late Alistair McMurran covered club rugby for the Otago Daily Times for more than 40 years and was convinced the standard of play had improved.

We saw more evidence of that this season with Harbour, University, Taieri, Green Island and Kaikorai locked in a tense duel for the playoffs and playing high-quality rugby.

Interest -

Even on the worst winter's day - and there were not too many of them this season - there is always a crowd. The average age is probably close to 50-plus and you do worry for the future.

But the club final attracted perhaps 1500 and the sidelines were busy at most games.

What will premier club rugby look like in 15 years? -

There will be the odd merge or two and perhaps North Otago will join the competition. But club rugby will remain part of the landscape and continue to draw loyal, but perhaps smaller, crowds.

 

GLASS HALF EMPTY

The draw -

Let's put it this way - Kaikorai played 16 round-robin games and the other eight sides played 15. Sound reasonable to you? The integrity of the tournament was compromised so the season could be squeezed into the available window in order that the best players could play in the final. No issue with having the best players available.

But why not play a midweek round or ditch the semifinals if you need to make up a week? It was a lopsided and queer draw. Sort it out for next season please.

Player depth -

Did you see Zingari-Richmond play this season? Have you seen a premier two game recently? The best players are fitter, stronger and more skilful - there are just fewer of them.

The sport is withering and it is only a matter of time before the premier grade drops from nine to eight teams.

Playing standard -

The trickle down does not appear to be reaching all the way to the bottom. Clubs have their ups and down and right now Alhambra-Union and Zingari-Richmond are at the bottom.

They combined for just one win against the other seven teams. They might rebound but it will probably be at the cost of other clubs. Dunedin can arguably sustain only six or seven competitive sides.

Interest -

Club crowds look like the crowd which used to attend lawn bowling. The new whiz-bang internet marketing strategy is lost on that demographic and does not appear to be drawing in droves new, and younger, supporters.

What will premier club rugby look like in 15 years -

Do something. Do anything. Just don't do nothing hoping it will be all right. Because there will be change. There will be amalgamations. Rugby clubs will have to adapt. There is a drift away from organised weekend sport to casual midweek fixtures. Stop fighting it.

Why not try some midweek matches under lights at the new artificial turf? It would free up the weekend for people, could draw people back to the sport and perhaps even flush out new supporters.

 

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