Numbers suggest rugby in trouble

Paul Dwyer
Paul Dwyer

ODT columnist Paul Dwyer gives us his weekly rundown on what's happening in Dunedin club rugby.

The Wrap

The Harbour Hawks got up in the final seconds with a late try to draw the game with Southern. Last season's finalist is yet to register a win after two games. Varsity is two from two after crushing AU which is languishing pointless and swallowing spoon. The Eels started the season with gusto after a first-round bye and wiped the sandpit clean of Shark with a crushing victory over a spineless Dunedin outfit - more jellyfish than shark! It's early days but the Eels are looking the part this year with a very competitive pack and a combative backline. Zingari handed up the Speight's Challenge Shield to fellow mountain dweller Kaik. It only lost in the last few seconds to a long-range penalty to flyhalf Gus Gray. But Zingers have had a great start to the season and Highlander Tevita Nabura has been huge for them in more ways than one in the midfield.

Player numbers

I talked about the lack of numbers last week in the two colts grades and as of last night that has been confirmed. In our prem colts grade we will have eight teams. The clubs represented are Varsity, Southern, Taieri, Dunedin, AU, Kaikorai and Harbour. Throw in Southland Boys and that gives us eight. While I applaud Harbour for finally getting a colts side up and running I seriously question whether they'll actually start in this grade next week, in my mind more likely junior colts.

In junior colts there will be sides from Varsity, Dunedin (two), AU, Kaikorai, GI, Zingari and Southern. There are questions over whether Southern will front. Central Otago was hoping to join the comp but didn't cut the mustard this year. So that gives us 14 or 15 Dunedin sides at best. Rugby is in serious trouble in this town looking at these numbers so what are we going to do about it? A think-tank was set up last year by the ORFU at the suggestion of the world's longest serving president, Des Smith, to come up with said answers. It made a series of recommendations to hopefully staunch the bleeding (I know because I was on it and yes I dragged the average IQ down markedly) and none of it has come to light yet. Don't worry, I will be following up.

The AGM and Metro meetings

I had the dubious pleasure of attending the ORFU AGM and it was interesting to say the least. Firstly, ``Pres'' Des Smith's time was up as he had done his two-year stint. But as there were no other takers, Des was re-elected for another term. As I've said before, make him president for life as he is the schmoozing ambassador extraordinaire, knows everybody, does more miles than Firestone and gives the union his well worn face - good on ya mate.

The Heavies then tried to ratchet the clubs' fees per team with the ``ayes and nos'' and then with a show of hands but a secret ballot was demanded. The motion was unceremoniously crushed which tells me things aren't overly rosy in River City.

In the same week, I attended the famous Metro Committee meeting up on the high veldt of Kaik. It was an eye-opener to say the least. Look, they are a fine body of men with their hearts in the right place but do they really know what is happening in their own clubs? When the discussion turned to scholarships and player payments they had honestly no idea what is really going on. But it did give me an appreciation of the challenges they face in terms of draws, regulations, comps and keeping everybody happy.

The national anthem

The ODT ran a column recently about Maori language week which raised the ire of many. There was a lot of hand-wringing, cries of racism and the ODT was taken to task for running it. While I don't endorse the sentiments of the columnist, columns are supposed to make you think. Thus what is with our national anthem? We sing it first in Maori which sounds fantastic and just when the world thinks it over we belt it out again in English. What do they think of us? Make a decision, for God's sake. One or the other! It sounds so much better in Maori so let's go with that. What's this got to do with rugby? Well, we do sing it at tests!

Country rugby

In North Otago we've had our first default (could be first of many) with Athies crying off to Old Boys over Easter. The only serious challenger to Old Boys is Kurow and they play this weekend so we await that result with interest.

The new Maheno lights were in action on Wednesday night for the game against Excelsior and passed with flying colours. They only cost $90K apparently. I'll have to get the sparkie's name passed on to the DCC - it can't put a cycle lane sign up for that! The first of Jacko's imports played in the game for Excelsior. A big strapping American winger (he must have been big he was the only one on the plane) but it didn't do the side much good as it lost by 40!

In the 125th Owaka celebrations, the home team beat Clinton by 15 in front of 300 spectators. They had 200 at the dinner and raised $30K at the auction of team jerseys. Even the guest speaker, the legendary Stan Meads, bought one.

Special jerseys were given out to Owaka coach Steve Clement, who was captain of the team at the centenary 25 years ago, and to Jock Burney, who has played nearly 400 games for the team and is in his 20th straight season - now that's longevity. True legends, lads.

The only big game in Central this weekend has the Arrowtown Bulls up against Upper Clutha and I'm picking the Tarras lads to upset the home team - don't let me down!

This weekend

Destroyed Harty, the refs' head honcho last week, and on to Finchy (Hayden Finch) from sponsor Speight's this weekend so the early unbeaten run continues - take it to the bank. Southern (12-) hosts Zingers at Bathgate and, with match-winner Nabura listed to play, I should be tipping Zingari to upset the Magpies. But no, I trust Josh Ioane at 10 to get his team home. The Eels (13+) have their favourite, Lentjes, back on the paddock and, after crushing the Sharks last week, will be too strong for the Spannerheads. I'm picking Harbour (12-) to finally get it right at the Abalone Arena and consign Varsity to its first defeat. Kaik up at the high veldt looks unbeatable over the Sharks (12-) specially with Dan Pryor suiting up. The Sharks struggle away from water and oxygen and never beat Kaik but I'm a masochist so they win.

The late mail

Harty's refs are like mailmen and they delivered penalties and cards like the Easter rabbit over the weekend, especially in the Zingers and Sharks games. Good to see consistency reigns.


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