Dunedin season on hold for 2 weeks

Paul Dwyer. Photo: ODT files
Paul Dwyer. Photo: ODT files
Dunedin rugby is going to shut down for at least two weeks and possibly push the start of the premier competition back by a month.

The Council of Rugby Clubs met last night and agreed the rapid spread of Omicron in the city meant it was timely to bring a halt to the season, which is in its very early stages.

The match committee’s recommendation, distributed to all clubs and accepted by the CRC, was to put all pre-season training and games on hold for two weeks from today.

Council chairman Paul Dwyer said the situation would then be re-assessed on March 14.

Many clubs had already been forced to cancel training as they had so many players either test positive for Covid or be forced into isolation.

Like most club sports in Dunedin, premier rugby is dominated by students, who have been at the epicentre of the outbreak.

"In a lot of cases, 30% of players hadn’t been turning up anyway," Dwyer said.

"They’d either had Covid or they were very close contacts because they were in the same flat as a positive case.

"So we need to take the lead on this and make the responsible decision."

The preseason delay meant the start of the competition would have to be pushed back, Dwyer said.

Premier rugby was due to start on March 26.

"We’re thinking now we will probably have to look at somewhere like April 30," Dwyer said.

"Even if the clubs can go back after March 14 for preseason training, the issue is whether we can then go into games, because they could become a mass spreader.

"We may not be able to have pre-season games until the end of March, so the club season — all club rugby — could not start until the end of April, best-case scenario."

A revised draw for Dunedin premier rugby would feature the first round being wiped.

The Gallaway Trophy round could, ideally, be played in full, so premier rugby would still finish as scheduled on July 17.

Other club rugby would not finish till mid-August.

The CRC had kept the Otago Rugby Football Union up to speed and the union was supportive, Dwyer said.

Dunedin club officials had also been in touch with Otago Country rugby, which is having its own discussions about its competitions in South and Central Otago.

There is one other issue Dunedin premier rugby may have to address.

It is understood the New Zealand under-20 competition, featuring colts teams from the Super Rugby franchises, including the Highlanders, has been postponed from its scheduled late-March start.

If New Zealand Rugby tries to play that tournament at the crunch end of the club rugby season, it will not go down well.