Upsets aplenty but early days yet

The wrap

So I picked Kaik to win the comp and Varsity (Fletcher Smith, really) thrashed them! I picked Zingers to finish bottom of the comp and they thrashed last year's runner-up Harbour - great start for me! Thanks for the texts from Zingari though suggesting politely where I could shove the spoon - much appreciated.

So Varsity dished up Kaik on the back of a couple of ''14''-point tries to start its season well. The mighty G I Spannerheads tipped over the defending champ, Southern, which I didn't think was too much of a surprise, so it could be a long season for the Bathgate Boys.

Zingers beating Harbour at the Periwinkle Pavilion was a massive upset. Harbour was at its awful worst, apparently, but a great start from the lads from Bastion Point and long may it continue. The only standard result was the Sharks feasting on the Ponies from the North ground in a penalty and card fest at the Sandpit. But I stress it's early days, lads.


A women's academy

I read with some interest that the rugby union is starting a women's academy in Dunedin and calling it a ground-breaking achievement. Really?

We currently have four senior women's teams in town and if rumours are to be believed, that might only be three this year. North Otago throws in a team to make up the numbers and most of those come off the legendary 747 that ''Jacko'', the head honcho of North Otago Rugby, hires to prop up the playing stocks.

If you look at the results of the last few years there are only two competitive teams, Pirates and Varsity. By having an academy will we get more players? Wouldn't we be better building up the playing stocks because currently half of them could be in the academy!


The numbers game

I said last week our numbers look thinner than ever across the ranks. As the situation stands today, we have 15 colts sides in town. We have six premier colts sides which is an unmitigated disaster.

Southland Boys takes the number to seven, so a bye is imminent. By my reckoning there will be nine junior colts sides. The numbers are still up in the air as Southern and Taieri are trying to put junior colts sides together.

But for us to talk about numbers being up at the annual meeting of Otago Rugby is palpably ridiculous when you consider where colts rugby is at and when you consider it is the lifeblood of our clubs.

In four years we have lost over a third of our sides. More next week when teams are finalised in all grades.


Highlanders spin

I see a missive has been sent out to all premier coaches announcing a game between the Highlander Bravehearts and Junior Japan (whatever that means) on April 14 as a curtain-raiser to the Highlanders v Brumbies game.

That all sounds good until you read the fine print and at the last two ''Braveheart'' games 10 club players have been used. I imagine the club coaches have approached this missive with zilch enthusiasm.

However, all is not lost. Cory Brown assures me that there should only be a half a dozen club players affected. We will wait and see but as per usual it's the clubs that suffer and nobody seems to care.


Country rugby

So North and Central Otago Rugby kicked off at the weekend. In Central Otago, Wakatipu, Arrowtown, Cromwell and especially Upper Clutha had big wins over Matak, Maniototo, Alex and Clyde respectively. It's all about the ''haves'' and ''have nots'' in the competition at present.

The population bases are thriving whereas the smaller towns and rurals are struggling. Cromwell, for example, has lent Clyde up to 10 players to survive. More next week as their competition is in hiatus over Easter.


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But North Otago is where it's at. Listen to this... Excelsior visited Kurow on Saturday with only 18 players and the coach met five of them at the game for the first time. Kurow is flush with players after flogging eight from Twizel.

''Jimmy the Hooker'', who played for Athies last year, was spotted at second five for Old Boys at the weekend - he was easy to spot as he still had his Athies socks on! Union, which runs its own junior teams out of Ngapara but is affiliated to Valley at senior level, has entered its own team in the mythical senior reserve competition - and no-one is happy about this.

Add that to the fact that ''Jackos'' 747 has not arrived with a plane load of players because the runway has not been lengthened at the airport is causing more issues.

Jacko, what is going on? Please explain. More next week in this drama. By the way, Old Boys win the comp and they play one game tonight, one on Saturday and one next Wednesday - go figure.

South Otago do not kick off until April 7 apart from Owaka v Clinton this Saturday as part of Owaka's125th jubilee celebrations. There will be lots of toes and banjo players on display there. But congratulations to Owaka for hitting the big number.


The deck of cards

Questions need to be asked of referees supremo Chris Hart. The word is nine yellows and two reds handed out in the Dn v AU and Zingers v Harbour games by Jono Bredin and Rob Wells.

Was there anybody left on the paddock? Either we need to give the players hearing aids or the refs one less pea in their whistles. I suspect it should be a combination of both.

I do feel sorry for the replacement first five for the Sharks, Nikau McGregor, who had been on the field only 12 seconds when he was red-carded for Dunedin's persistent infringing at the break-down. To make matters worse, from what I could see, he, like all backs, was nowhere near the ruck.


This weekend

Destroyed Dunedin's best publican, Mark Scully, from The Alehouse, last weekend so he is one voucher down already but I doubt I'll see it. Speaking of Harty, I'm up against him tonight so the way he is handling his refs this is a no-contest so the run climbs to two. But he is still the licensed victualler to the Meads Bar at home so I'll go easy on him.

The Sharks (12-) are at home in the sandpit to the Eels and could make it two from two but there won't be a lot in it, with Eels pack looking a lot stronger than last year.

The Hawks (12-) are at home again at Groperville and just get it done against The Magpies. Varsity (12-), even without Smith, will get home over AU at the Pony Pit - but only just.

Against my better judgement I'm picking Kaik (12-) to beat Zingers at home at Bastion Point but I don't really know why. Remember all games at 5.30pm tonight so leave the lights in your cars on.


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