Rugby: Close competition in Central

Arrowtown players and management celebrate their 23-13 win against Upper Clutha in last year's...
Arrowtown players and management celebrate their 23-13 win against Upper Clutha in last year's Central Otago club rugby final at Jack Reid Park. Photo by Joanne Carroll.
Eight teams will again contest the Central Otago rugby competition, which comprises two rounds plus semifinals and a final. Defending champion Arrowtown, Upper Clutha, Maniototo and pink-clad Wakatipu shape as the favourites, but do not tell the other four teams that. Central Otago sports correspondent Rhys Chamberlain previews the season.

Last year's semifinalist will want to go one step further this season and play for the championship. However, it may face an uphill battle as a number of key players have moved on, including stand-out utility back Danny van der Voort, skilled fullback Cameron Smith and halfback/winger Shaun O'Neill.

Coach: John Cooney
Captain: Ian Cooney
Gains: None
Losses: Cameron Smith (injury), Danny van der Voort (Dunedin), Brendan Domigan (overseas), Peter Breen (injury), Shaun O'Neill (overseas)
Key players: No 8 Ian Cooney, flanker Shane Harrex

Boasting a core of hardworking club stalwarts, the men from Arrowtown will again look to build around those players in 2010 and keep their winning formula going.

With players including flanker Aiden Winter, No 8 Dan Iosefo and lock Daniel Dodds, Arrowtown will again be the side everyone else is looking to beat.

Coach: Blair Wilce
Captain: Aiden Winter
Gains: None
Losses: None
Key players: Lock Daniel Dodds, No 8 Dan Iosefo, flanker Aiden Winter, first five Reece Winter

Finishing bottom of the table in its previous two seasons, Clyde-Earnscleugh will want to record more than just one win this year. Fitness and player numbers will be the key to success.

Look out for a rejuvenated Corey Crosby in the pack, along with No 8 Mike Wing and halfback Jai Baxter. There is a new face at centre in Ryno Seibrids, a former Western Province sevens player from South Africa.

Coaches: Keith Robertson, Murray Miller
Captain: Corey Crosby
Gains: Ryno Seibrids (South Africa), Ian Chisholm (Scotland)
Losses: Reuben O'Connell (injury)
Key players: Lock Corey Crosby, No 8 Mike Wing, halfback Jai Baxter

Cromwell was favoured to do well last year but failed to fire. An inability to close out matches and the lack of a consistent starting XV led to a number of close losses. This season should be more successful, with a core of players back from last year, including tireless No 8 Justin Carnie as well as Fijian winger Charlie Tiko and midfielder Sam Gibbens.

Coaches: Murray King, Russell Decke
Captain: Justin Carnie
Gains: Angus Gibbens (Auckland), John Gibbens (Auckland), Sam Gibbens (Upper Clutha), Charlie Tiko (Midlands)
Losses: Andy Clarke (overseas), Barry Scott (Dunedin)
Key players: No 8 Justin Carnie, lock Blake McPhee, midfielder Sam Gibbens, wing Charlie Tiko

The hard men from the Maniototo will want to improve on their fifth place last year. They will again be strong in 2010, especially at home, with the likes of former Otago players Charlie Hore and Matt O'Connell in the mix, as well as the ageless Dowling brothers leading the way.

Coach: Ryan Dowling
Captain: Logan Dowling
Gains: Mitchell Lake (Matakanui Combined), Tim O'Neill (Lincoln), James Pyle (injury)
Losses: Duncan Smith (injury), Gavin Dowling (Australia)
Key players: First five Charlie Hore, No 8 Matt O'Connell

Combined Matakanui found it difficult to win away from home last year and also struggled with numbers at times.

Hopes are high this season, with a forward pack led by captain John Anderson and a backline built around solid midfielder Scott Milne.

Coaches: Lindsay Scott, Andrew Paterson
Captain: John Anderson
Gains: Mark Naylor (Clyde), Taylor Hill (age grade), Steve Hore (Dunedin)
Losses: Simon Grant (Clutha), Mitchell Lake (Maniototo), William Lake (overseas), Dylan Edwards (Dunedin)
Key players: First five Andrew Clouston, midfielder Scott Milne, flanker Dean Rabbidge, flanker/midfielder James Heckler

Last season's runner-up will be a major contender for the title in 2010, especially with most of its players returning.

Upper Clutha's forwards have the ability to unsettle their opponents and lay a platform for a quality backline that features outstanding winger Willie Scurr. Powerful No 8 Tane Tawera was often the best player on the paddock last season.

Coach: Paul Cosgrove
Captain: Nick Thompson
Gains: Sean Macaskill (Lawrence), Paul Glynn (Waikaka), Mika Lolesi (Auckland), Adam Faulks (Excelsior), Brendon Cairns (Excelsior), Dan Hellebreakers (Varsity A), Campbell Grant (United States)
Losses: Ben Purvis (overseas), Sam Gibbens (Cromwell), John Scott (retired)Key players: First five Byron Clarke, No 8 Tane Tawera, winger Willie Scurr

After losing just three games in 2009, Wakatipu will be looking to build on its winning formula. The Queenstown-based side has built a strong squad with a number of notable new players.

With the likes of Otago triallist Ben Blakely at No 8 and Tom Kelly in the midfield, Wakatipu can be expect to be a strong contender.

Coaches: Kelvin Middleton, Tom Bamber
Captain: Damien Petre
Gains: Poi Roberts (Southland), Adam Price (overseas)
Losses: John Strickland (lock)
Key players: No 8 Ben Blakely, midfielder Tom Kelly


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