Season starting tonight under the roof

Green Island No8 Lafele Fa'amoe is tackled by Southern fullback Bryce Hosie (on ground) as Josh...
Green Island No8 Lafele Fa'amoe is tackled by Southern fullback Bryce Hosie (on ground) as Josh Gordon comes across to help in defence in a premier club rugby game at Bathgate Park last season. Looking on are (from left) Mike Mata'afa, Matt McCutcheon, Devin Stapley, Peter Mirrielees and Delaney McKenzie. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Club rugby writer Adrian Seconi wades through all the comings and goings and offers this preamble before the season kicks off at Forsyth Barr Stadium tonight.

Is this the year Green Island makes the top four?

Will someone other than Mark Grieve-Dunn or Hame Toma crash the ball up for Dunedin?

Which team will follow Pirates into the abyss?

And can Zingari-Richmond win a game this season?

We will find out during the next four months. Real rugby resumes tonight, when Green Island hosts Alhambra-Union under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

It should be a good occasion and will offer an insight into how the Grizzlies are shaping this season.

Last year they pulled off some tremendous upsets but a lack of bonus points meant they struggled to stay in touch with the top four. They eventually slipped to seventh.

With powerful Otago No8 Dylan Nel at the boot of the scrum and talented pivot Finn Strawbridge steering the team around the paddock, Green Island is bound to inflict more upsets.

Alhambra-Union has collected close losses at an alarming rate in the past few years. But its forward pack made good gains late last winter, which bodes well.

Joint defending champion University will host Southern tomorrow, in a battle of the traditional heavyweights.

The Magpies lost a lot of momentum last season when Mika Mafi signed with North Otago club Excelsior partway through the campaign. He has returned this season and, along with prop Mike Mata'afa, really punches on to the ball.

Outside back Mackenzie Haugh is capable of magic and Paul Tupai is a solid centre.

University has a classy line-up, though. Josh Hill is a rangy lock with a big future. Loose forward Sam Dickson is bound to join brother Josh in the Highlanders eventually, and Kilipata Lea is a force in the front row.

First five-eighth Mike Williams was excellent last season and speedy fullback Taylor Haugh finds holes where others find stiff defence.

Dunedin should be too strong for Zingari-Richmond at Kettle Park. There is no Toma this weekend but Grieve-Dunn is there to hit the ball up. And look out for inside back Evaan Reihana. He is a new face in the backline alongside Gene Te Amo.

The Colours have made a good acquisition in Shae Tucker but he is down to play at first five-eighth. He was more of a smash-it-up merchant when he played for University a couple of seasons back.

The Kaikorai-Harbour fixture at Bishopscourt is perhaps the pick of the opening games. The Demons arguably have the best loose forward trio in the competition in Slade McDowell, Patrick McCurran and Christian Lio-Willie.

Ben Miller is an improving first five-eighth and inside back TJ Ane is destined for higher honours.

Harbour shared the title with University last season but has a host of new faces. The pack is missing some key players but the word is the new recruits are very decent.

Time will tell, but out wide some familiar names have returned. Centre Aleki Morris and outside back Sala Halaleva will bolster a dangerous-looking backline.

Taieri has the bye in the first round.

 

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