Provincial competition hit by player drain

The player drain is continuing unabated as the pull overseas and the need to rest up hits sides in the Mitre 10 Cup hard.

The competition kicked off over the weekend and, although there were a couple of surprise results, what is becoming clear is that players are not hanging around to play provincial rugby.

The 15 players who took the field for Otago against Wellington on Sunday in the capital, just two were in their same positions from the last time Otago played.

Lock Josh Dickson and hooker and captain Sam Anderson-Heather took the field for Otago last year in its final game of the season.

There were a few players from last year's side playing in a different positions or who started on the bench. Matt Faddes played at fullback in last year's losing semifinal effort against Bay of Plenty but was named at centre against Wellington.

But there are still plenty of players who have departed for other provinces or overseas.

It is not just Otago where players are moving on.

Wellington started on Sunday with just four players who began the Mitre 10 Cup Championship final last year while Canterbury also had only four players from last year's successful final in the side which lost to Tasman on Friday night.

Many experienced players are still on leave from Super Rugby or resting injuries and may return in the next few weeks.

Players are chasing contracts and, as the game has gone fully professional, the only loyalty is to themselves.

Former Otago captain and hooker David Latta, who played 161 games for his province, said he did not have an issue with players moving around as this just reflected the game these days.

``I think it is more about players just looking around for the best opportunity,'' he said.

``Super Rugby has changed things a lot. The franchises are looking around for the very best players and will take them from any team. So players will move to a team where they think they have the best chance of getting noticed or making a name for themselves.''

Players were a lot more transient, he said.

``It is a short period of time that you can be a rugby player so these guys are looking around to where they can get an opportunity. You are just not going to get the guy who played 10 years for a province unless they go overseas for a short while and then come back.''

Latta made his debut for Otago in 1986 and played for 10 seasons with the province, finishing as the game went professional in 1996.

``But it is completely different now. The game is different, society is different - everything has changed.''

He said there was still players around who were loyal to their province but their numbers were becoming fewer.

``It is a job like any other and guys want to be employed. The rugby purist probably doesn't want to see it like that but there is no loyalty any more.''


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