Higher profile for code among benefits of elite competition

Otago's elite touch competition has taken a big jump in its second season.

The Otago Premier League was started last year to provide a competitive high-level league for the province’s best players.

It would provide a stepping stone to events such as the national championships and national camps.

Four teams — the Roosters, Royals, Raiders and Rebels — were created and each had men’s and women’s sides.

Players were drafted to each by a panel, providing an even competition, but also allowing certain combinations to develop chemistry playing together.

Otago Touch operations manager Jarrod Powell said while the first season had been successful, it had made changes to grow the league further this summer.

A move to North Ground from Bishopscourt had increased the league’s visibility.

It put the games in a place where students would walk past and stop to watch, and some who had played elsewhere were able to link with teams.

The league was more targeted as preparation for national championships as well.

While last year it had been played on either side of Christmas, this year it was a shorter league in which each team played 12 games over six match days.

Increased sponsorship had also been beneficial.

It all contributed to helping both the players and referees get exposed to a higher level of the game more regularly.

"It’s definitely filling that gap,"

just the way the games are played are slightly different, a little bit more technical, a little bit more serious," Powell said.

"There’s a lot of catch-up we have to do in terms of where the North Island teams are with competitive competition.

"This is definitely a step going towards that.

"Even this year it’s a lot more competitive.

"Last year everyone rocked up and it was fun and good to introduce everyone to everyone — we’ve got the young players that maybe haven’t met the open players.

"But now it’s gone to a step where that’s happening, but they want to get together and win this competition."

The competition will conclude with its finals day on March 12, which will also incorporate the Touch Otago prizegiving.

  • Otago players Dylan Pledger and Jake Fowler have been named in the New Zealand under-16 team.

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