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The semis are all done and dusted and we are at finals footy this weekend. The semis were predictable in result but the Harbour Hawks thrashed the Sharks to take a lot of confidence and possibly the favourites tag into the finals. Southern made extremely hard work of beating a plucky Kaik outfit and won’t be feeling quite so good going into this weekend.
It wouldn’t be finals week without some controversy rearing its head and a last minute rule challenge. Tevita Li, for Harbour, and Dan Pryor, for Kaik, wouldn’t have been available to play this weekend as the ORFU has clamped down on non-Otago affiliated Highlanders playing finals weekend. There was talk Tom Franklin could have suited up for Southern and Waisake Naholo, plus Li, for Harbour — but let’s be honest, it would be patently ridiculous if this was allowed to happen. I’m picking this could finally be Harbour’s year and after five attempts in finals it could win one this weekend. Lance Abramovich Spence will consider it money well spent in the 25th year of the Harbour club. The pack is big and strong with plenty of powerful ball runners. Its backs look to have the edge over a pedestrian-looking Southern backline.
Southern is powerful up front and has a definite edge at nine and 10 and if its backline can link with Josh Ioane (10), who made eight clean breaks last week, it can win it. But this is Harbour’s last chance to get this thing done — so take it, I say!
Clutha plays Crescent in the final this weekend and is the biggest favourite since Kiwi Keith Holyoake and the National party in the ’60s — it is paying 95c at the TAB.
In Central it is the battle of the Wakatipu, with the aforementioned hosting Arrowtown. Wakatipu just got it done over Cromwell in extra time and Arrowtown held out the Maggots a day later than scheduled. The word is the Maggots couldn’t play on the Saturday because they were moving stock because of the big snow, but the word on social media is that a lot of the team were stranded in Ashvegas. What’s going on up there? Wakatipu for the win, but nearly too close to call.
In Prem 2s, West Taieri, Kaik, Eastern and Dunedin or Varsity make the four. I’ve got a West Taieri v Kaik final, with Kaik winning. In Seniors it’s a Harbour v Brighton final, with Harbour winning. In Prem Colts Varsity, Taieri, Dunedin and SBHS are the four and Varsity should just win it. In Junior Colts Varsity, Dunedin, Taieri and GI make the four and Varsity just win. Word of warning: some of these grades won’t be finished till Labour Weekend as there are no grounds available to play on!
The last of the funny bits!
So the four coaches for the semis were sent a list of the top seven refs to grade by the ref "heavies" Harty and "Welcome Back Kotter" to help select the refs for the semis and finals and there was no answer from any of them — lads I keep telling you: just email me!
So has Cory B signed the big new No 8 from Harbour, Pat Sio, for the Highlanders? Two weeks ago gone, last week a reprieve, Monday gone again and midweek back in. Doctors, lawyers, physios, board members, coaches, millionaires have all been involved. As of today in, but you never know!At least one Marist side got it done in Gumboot (Invercargill), Marist winning the Galbraith Shield two weeks ago.
The Speight’s/ODT tipping competition winner is John Stinson and he gets to take 10 mates to Speight’s Brewery hosted by Snowy in his last act before he becomes a rotund publican — congrats John.
The answer to my quiz last week was Steve Dunn, from Southern, who scored 26 tries in 1997. Thanks to all who sent answers in and there were plenty. The first correct answer came in from "Reggie" from the Metro Committee and Southern, but he had an unfair advantage, so I might get Harty from Liquorland to get two prizes and we’ll award one to Nathan Morgan as well — congrats, lads.
If Mike Kerr invites you on a bus trip to Naseby just turn and run like the clappers. Forty hardy souls set off for a day trip curling last Friday and some got home by helicopter (only the rich, spoilt turncoats) mid afternoon Saturday. The bus made it by Saturday evening and some in three-day-old clothes didn’t make it till Sunday. Thanks to Red Lion in Ranfurly for putting up with us and I’ll send you a list of guys who will pay for the stains on the carpet! But remember, stay well clear of Mike Kerr and DAY bus trips!
Spare a thought for Dashing Des Smith the "Pres", who goes to every game in Otago. He couldn’t get out of Harington Point at the weekend (just as well he wasn’t on Kerr’s bus!) because of a massive slip, so missed all rugby Saturday and Sunday semis. According to his wife, Raelene, he was stomping round the house having hot flushes and cold sweats and going into serious drug dependency withdrawal symptoms. The wailing could be heard all over the point!
The Waitaki First XV didn’t have a strapper or physio with them on Wednesday for the interschool with Otago Boys. Lo and behold, the All Black physio, Pete Gallagher, strolls in and takes over, much to the delight of the lads! Didn’t help them though — they still lost by 64!
Congrats to Logan Allan and Tala Fagasoia from Harbour for playing their 50th games last weekend and this weekend respectively.
Lost to Lance Abramovich Spence last weekend and that is a new "low" for me — I’ve hit rock bottom. I have been hounded by a marauding pack of Southern "bogans" over the last few weeks who have rightly been getting into me for not going into Magpie HQ after the Sharks lost to it in the last game of the first round, so I profusely apologise! To make good I am up against the "head bogan" Grant Stumbles this weekend. As I’ve said, this is Harbour’s (12-) last chance, so it just gets it done — finally. Winning the Challenge Shield and the final — they won’t be sober at Guppyfish Park for a month!
The late mail
Otago Rugby Football Union general manager Richard Kinley responded to an Otago Daily Times request late yesterday and was able to provide some clarity around the availability of players for the premier final.
"Players not registered to the Otago union are not eligible to play club rugby once the Highlanders season concluded," Kinley said.
Tevita Li, for example, would have required a release from his home union to be able to play for Harbour in the final, despite playing for the side in the semifinal.
To avoid any doubt, Kinley contacted three unions and none of them were prepared to release their players.