Gram­mar Carl­ton out of Waka Nathan

Central Leader - - Sport - By Scott Mor­gan

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.

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