Grassroots teams still seem in good heart

Despite fears for grassroots rugby, it appears to remain in good heart.

The Dunedin premier competition will get under way this weekend and the top four sides from last season are in reasonable shape.

The tournament was meant to start in mid-March but Covid-19 resulted in the competition being suspended.

University co-coach Roy Hawker said the defending champion had lost some players during the hiatus but mainly at the lower levels.

"People that are pretty serious about their rugby haven’t changed their views. But those people in the lower grades, who play rugby more for fun and the social aspect, may have reconsidered," Hawker said.

"So you lose a few numbers in the lower grades and it has just been a bit hard to get guys enthusiastic again.

"It does not help that the weather has been [poor]."

Hawker said the club had not lost any teams but "if anything we’ve just been a little bit lighter at training".

"Normally, we get into July and the wet months and we’ve got team morale to rely on to get people to training but that isn’t the case this year by starting this late into winter."

Taieri co-coach Scott Guthrie said his club "hasn’t been too affected at all".

"Player numbers are still pretty similar to before the lockdown and from what I can see most people are back.

"The committee has been working hard in the interim and things are picking back up where they left off.

"It has been a pretty well run club for several years and, with the great local support they get through the bar and out watching on Saturdays, they have managed to save enough over the years to weather the storm."

Green Island coach Dean Moeahu said the club’s senior grade team had dropped out but it was otherwise in "pretty good shape", fielding 25 junior teams, three senior men’s sides and a women’s side.

Harbour coach Ryan Nicholas’ assessment was not quite as rosy, though.

"I think it has had a financial impact on all the clubs in terms of the amount of home games you are going to have and subsequent bar-takings," he said of the impact of Covid-19.

"Even sponsors are saying half season, half the rate sort of thing.

"I’m sure everyone will take a hit in that regard.

"But I think, generally, we’ll be all right. We’ll survive, obviously, but our club, along with everyone else, has had to make some sort of changes to make things work."

Dunedin premier teams at a glance

The mud, the glory and the couple of frozen hours spent on the sidelines can resume when club rugby finally kicks off this weekend.  


Last year: Champion. Key men: Fullback Taylor Haugh, openside Jack McHugh and utility forward Henry Bell. Fresh-looking backline and will miss experienced prop Angus Williams.


Last year: Beaten finalist. Key men: Lock Ben Morris, prop Tom Hill, midfielder Matt Whaanga. Rebuilding, but so are most teams. Looks very solid on paper.

Green Island

Last year: Beaten semifinalist. Key men: Lock Woody Kirkwood, No 8 Sean Jansen, first five-eighth Finn Strawbridge Played an expansive game last season. Will miss Dylan Nel and Ray Nu’u.


Last year: Beaten semifinalist. Key men: First five-eighth Toka Sopoaga, lock Taylor Dale, fullback Mike Graham Lost a few players due to Covid-19 but smoked Kaikorai in pre-season prior to lockdown.


Last year: Fifth. Key men: First five-eighth Ben Miller, lock Pita Sinamoni, prop Jonah Aoina. Well-resourced and gathering a lot of early hype.


Last year: Sixth. Key men: Hooker Joe Cairns, flanker Brad Horne, first five-eighth Mitchell Taylor Looking to claw its way back up the ladder. Not the best results in pre-season.


Last year: Seventh. Key men: Prop Sepa Vaka, lock Ben Freschini, utility back Harrison Boyle. Disappointing in 2019 but the Sharks blooded some young players and that may pay dividends.


Last year: Eighth. Key men: Halfback Legin Hotham, hooker Alex Frood, winger John Tapueluelu. Decent forward back but will need to create more out wide.


Last year: Last. Key men: First five-eighth Thomas Johnson, utility back Connor Newlands, No 8 Aaron Einarson. Only way is up and all that. Beat Southern in a pre-season game.

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