Season from March until August

Richard Perkins
Richard Perkins
The Dunedin premier club competition will start in March and finish in August but the Otago-contracted players will not play at the business end of the season.

The competition will begin on March 24 and will not include any midweek games as clubs want to create a better club atmosphere and have all their teams playing on Saturdays.

A meeting of club delegates on Wednesday night discussed the options for the coming season.

There had been a couple of proposals discussed by clubs before Christmas but nothing had been decided upon as they struggled to reach a consensus.

Otago Rugby Football Union community rugby manager Richard Perkins said there was lively discussion about what  needed to be done and how to get a fair competition for all.

The clubs decided they wanted to start on March 24 and have a full double round. It will consist of nine teams. Pirates, which pulled out last year, will not enter a team again this season. That will create a bye but it could not be avoided. All games have to be played on Saturdays.

With the double round and then semifinals and final, the season will now be stretched out to have a final on August 4.

Otago-contracted players need to start training together for the Mitre 10 Cup before August 4. New Otago coach Ben Herring was at the meeting.

Perkins said clubs were  adamant that the final be on August 4 and that would be the final day for all grades.

It would create a better club atmosphere and give more flow to the season.

However, with the Mitre 10 Cup starting in mid-August — and warm-up games to fit into the equation — Perkins said Otago players would play on July 14 and then be unavailable for their clubs after that.

So the Otago players will miss the final round of the regular season and not play in the semifinals or final.

It is believed Harbour, University and Southern voted against the proposal.

Perkins said clubs wanted the final-day date as it created a focus for the whole club and all teams would finish on the same day.

Last season, many clubs were unhappy with the structure of the season as different grades finished on different days.

The issue is also complicated by the way the season ends for Otago players in the Highlanders. Their season can drag well into the end of July and then players go on leave for a couple of weeks at least, not giving much time to train with Otago and play warm-up games.

Perkins said the next step for the union was to put the framework around the season and work in with the metropolitan rugby council.

The colts competition was also in for an overhaul, wanting to make the competition more meaningful and make it less stop-start, which it has become over the past couple of years.

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