No time to find form in shortened N. Otago competition

Teams will have to be on form straight away as the North Otago club competition starts today.

The Citizens Shield will consist of one full round followed by two other games before playoffs.

The two games after the first round will be randomly drawn, and the final is set for August 22.

There had been thoughts of going to a full two rounds, but concerns over front-row numbers cut it to the seven games before finals.

The competition used to have many overseas imports, but for obvious reasons, not many will be sighted this year.

Defending champion Maheno will have a new coach in Harry Semple, who came south from the Bay of Plenty to become a development cricket coach for the North Otago Cricket Association last season.

Former Maheno coach Jason Forrest will concentrate on the North Otago representative side, which he led to Meads Cup glory last year.

The Old Golds will play games against rival Hanan Shield teams South Canterbury and Mid Canterbury, and possibly Otago Country. The Heartland Championship has been canned.

Kurow will be coached by Tim Anderson, Ben Nowell and Andrew Fisher.

It will play Old Boys in Oamaru on opening day and will have the services of Hayden Parker, who is returning to his home town for the club rugby season, pending a shoulder injury suffered in a pre-season game.

Maheno will meet Athletic Marist on No 5 ground on opening day. Athletic Marist will be under scrutiny after a far from memorable 2019 season when,because of a lack of players, it had to default some games.

Wayne Kinzett and Tama Loper have taken over this year. Athletic Marist is relying on young players and will look to enthusiasm and dash to make a statement.

Old Boys will be guided by veteran front-rower Ralph Darling, a first-class match centurion, and he will be joined by Robbie Breen, a newcomer to senior coaching ranks after a period coaching the St Kevin’s College First XV.

Old Boys has been a perennial contender and lost in the final last year. The side may be hit by shift workers not able to play on Saturdays.

The Covid-19 lockdown had made work more of a priority, so numbers could be light for a number of sides.

Valley has two experienced coaches in former Hurricanes front-rower Shane Carter and North Otago centurion Mike Mavor while Hamish McKenzie and Dan Keno continue to coach Excelsior.

These two sides will meet on opening day at Weston Park.

North Otago chief executive Colin Jackson said club rugby must take priority, and it had required thinking outside the square.

Last Saturday, four teams took part in pre-season games at Whitestone Contracting Stadium.

The games were of 20 minutes duration and each team played the other three teams, with 10 minutes between games.

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