More concerns aired on club game

Lance Spence
Lance Spence
A second club rugby administrator has expressed concerns about the future of the sport at that level.

Metropolitan Rugby Council match committee convener Mike Reggett is worried club rugby could be reduced to a feeder competition for the different global tournaments popping up.

Earlier this week, Harbour Rugby Football Club president Lance Spence revealed Harbour was losing four players to the Singapore-based Asia Pacific Dragons side which will play in the Rapid Rugby tournament planned for next year.

There is also a new tournament in the United States which will require players and more New Zealanders are likely to be in demand.

Spence told the Otago Daily Times the club scene was ''changing fast'' and he would not be surprised if the competition dropped to six senior teams within a few years.

Reggett shares his concern. Rapid Rugby and the tournament in the United States will be over by the end of June, so those players can come back in time for Otago's Mitre 10 Cup campaign.

The clubs were the big losers, he said.

''What incentive is there for a young guy to stay in Otago and play [club rugby] when another guy is going to go overseas, earn money and come back and play for the Otago team?'' Reggett said.

''It is going to impact on everyone - not just Otago. Kids are going to chase the dollar and there is not much we can do.''

Reggett is not as pessimistic about the future of club rugby as Spence. He does not believe the competition will drop to six teams but ''I think people are waiting for the next one to fall over''.

Pirates pulled out of the premier grade just before the start of the 2017 season and have no plans to return.

Their demise left nine senior teams and the possibility of another team dropping out seems a real possibility.

Harbour has expressed a desire to merge but its talks with Zingari-Richmond have twice broken down.

Southern is another club which is struggling. Despite winning the banner in 2017 it has shed three teams.

''We'll bounce back,'' Reggett, a long-time Southern stalwart, said.

''But we got caught on the hop by our recruiting guy leaving at the wrong time of the year.''

The Metropolitan Rugby Council met earlier this week and has mapped out the club season. The premier grade will start on March 23 and finish on July 27.

There will 17 round-robin games rather than 18, plus a semifinal and final.

A round will be dropped to fit the tournament into the available window. The clubs were not keen to play mid week or a doubleheader in order to preserve a proper double round-robin, Reggett said.

All the games will be played on Saturday with the exception of Easter weekend. That round of games will be played on Thursday, April 18.

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