Grammar Carlton out of Waka Nathan
They might be the reigning Waka Nathan Cup club rugby champions, but Grammar Carlton won’t be back to defend their title in this year’s competition.
The Waka Nathan Cup, which kicks off this weekend, was introduced as a pre-season tournament last year as a warm-up before the Alan McEvoy premier competition starts next month.
Grammar Carlton coach Brandon Jackson says the club has got nothing against the Waka Nathan Cup apart from its scheduling.
He says annual preseason games against opponents like Waikatobased Fraser Tech and Karaka are important as well.
“We’ve got traditional games that we should be playing.”
And he says it’s important his side has enough time to prepare for the new “experimental law variations” that will be used in club rugby for the first time this season.
The new rules will see more free kicks and fewer penalties, creating a faster brand of game.
“It’ll be a very different competition this year. Playing under the ELVs will mean a lot of clubs aren’t fit enough.”
As for their prospects in the Alan McEvoy competition, Jackson says there is a lot of young talent at the club that could make an impact at premier level this season.
With Grammar Carl- ton out of the picture, last year’s beaten Waka Nathan Cup finalists and premier competition winners Ponsonby are the obvious favourites to take out the pre-season tournament.
Ponsonby coach Simon Scott says he’s happy with where his side is so early in the season, but is yet to decide on a starting 15.
“It depends on who comes out of the woodwork. There are still guys to come back from overseas, so we’re not sure of the final makeup of the team.”
Scott says his side is keen to go one step further in the Waka Nathan Cup this year and take home the silverware.
And he’s supportive of the revamped Alan McEvoy competition, which saw a two division system merged into one last season.
“Last year we played some teams that we hadn’t played for some years.
“Teams continue to grow and be more competitive.”
Auckland Rugby’s club manager Matt McHardy says it’s “disappointing” Grammar Carlton won’t be there to defend the Waka Nathan Cup, but it’s not compulsory that all teams enter.
McHardy says he’s pleased with the way the Alan McEvoy competition went last year with a number of teams still in contention for the top eight near the end of regular season matches.
“It was a pretty even competition, which is always pleasing to see.”
The club rugby season kicks off tomorrow with first round Waka Nathan Cup matches scheduled for Lloyd Elsmore Park and Bell Park starting from 4pm.
Gotcha: Grammar Carlton wing Tony Wood catches Ponsonby’s Tevita Hufunga during last year’s Waka Nathan Cup final.