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Varsity is on 41 points so only needs one more win and some bonus points to guarantee a playoffs spot. Taieri has a game in hand and is on 36 so only needs two wins plus the odd bonus. So these two teams should finish one and two.
Harbour is the best team in town at the moment so will go in as favourite to beat Varsity this weekend and should easily cement third spot in the four. The real interest is in which side finishes fourth and it's down to three teams - Southern, Dunedin and Kaikorai.
Southern looks vulnerable and the depth in the club is alarmingly thin, especially with no premier II side. Dunedin and Kaikorai play each other this weekend in a crucial game and the loser could consign itself to the scrap heap. Kaikorai is four points adrift of Dunedin and will definitely be gone if it loses. So right now Southern to hang on but nearly too close to call. The big question will be whether Taieri and Harbour have enough depth to win a semi with 12 players out through Otago commitments and the answer is probably not, thus probably gifting the title to Varsity.
Is the comp meaningless?
With Taieri and Harbour likely to have 12 players out in the semis does this totally devalue this competition? Answer: probably yes. I see Canterbury will have all its players available for club finals on July 29, and hasn't it won the past five NPC titles? It begs the question whether we should be doing our best to resolve this stand-off between the union and the clubs. I'll do a lot more on this, rest assured, over the next few weeks.
Heading to the boondocks
I've been getting a lot of grief about no ODT rugby chats on our website and yes, fair criticism. But I'm heading to the tropical climes of Omakau this weekend to do a rugby chat about the game between Matakanui and Cromwell at the Domain.
I've given the Jenkins clan a bit of grief about the recent defaults up there so I will check out the recovery operation. I hear they may be trotting out some new imports this weekend as well.
One player carving up in the north this year is the dynamic Tongan prop-No8 Petelo Pouhila who has scored 13 tries in 10 games - remember the name. As an aside, if you think Zingers, Harbour and Southern are lacking depth, what about Old Boys, which has the maximum 50 points from 10 games so far this season?The Old Boys back-up team is an under-5 Rippa side, so stop complaining!
The seedy underbelly
So Barrett and "Lashes" Casey got disoriented while scoffing Big Macs. What do you expect at 5am in chilly Dunedin? They were doing nothing more than the age-old varsity tradition of "mothing" which has been going on for decades. When it's dark and cold, just aim for the light was always the motto. Forget about looking for a mate's flat.
Good to see the colts final was moved to the Varsity Oval - I'll take credit for that, but this is a big work-on for next year. This needs to be a spectacle and congrats to Varsity for winning for the third time in a row.
Has anybody seen or heard from the union's player development officer? I think he might be the guy I've spotted at the odd game with an iPad or has he just been listed as a "missing person?"
Have had feedback from a couple of primary school principals who are thoroughly disgruntled with the invisible rugby union in their schools. More on this next week, but it is evident we need to bring the parties together - union, schools and clubs.
If we are losing players from our Otago side spare a thought for Otago Cricket as it has players scurrying away like demented ants. But I am hearing that Jimmy Neesham didn't scurry - bottom line he wasn't offered a contract.
The Eels had a life members' day at the weekend at when all their stalwarts were presented with new life member blazers - 13 of them presented on the night. It was a massive night at the club during which the blazers would have been well and truly paid for. Fantastic idea, lads. I've always said the Eels were caring and creative.
I should never have picked halfbacks - beaten again by Liam Howley from the Magpies. Anyway, onward and upward. I've got Connor McLeod (isn't he the Highlander?) from Varsity so I'll reverse the rot.
The Magpies (13+) will be too strong for Zingers at Bastion Point. The Eels (13+) visit the Toolbox and jelly the Spannerheads. The Hawks (13+), with Rata Dawai coming off the bench, will be too big up front for Varsity. In the crucial playoff picture contest, Kaik should beat a spluttering Sharks (12-) outfit but I'd rather be Putin's Minister of social well-being than pick Kaik.