South Taranaki Star
Finals day hosting rights up for grabs in club rugby round 1
While Taranaki rguby clubs might not reap the rewards from the shortened CMK club rugby season, they will have extra incentive to perform.
In a new initiative, the club with most combined points after the first round across the premier, division one and colts grades, will host the popular finals day in July.
The first round includes two pools called Moana and Maunga with four teams in each which starts this month. The structure was changed just for this season because of potential Covid disruptions.
The climax of the season has traditionally been held at the region’s top venue. TET Stadium in Inglewood hosted three out of the last four finals days while Yarrow Stadium was being developed. Hicks Park in Hāwera hosted the finals in 2011.
Taranaki Rugby community and operations manager Cole Brown said the decision will give the club a financial boost and will make the first round more meaningful after prizemoney was added in March.
‘‘It’s something a bit different,’’ he said. ‘‘The idea is a fair way to give equal opportunities across the clubs. Everyone feels like they have a good chance, and it will develop culture and strength in the clubs early in the competition.’’
The host will be confirmed after three weeks, before the full second round. It will give the union time to support the club with the installation of match-day infrastructure, Brown said.
‘‘It will also give us time to ensure the field is in good condition come July.’’
The division two competition wasn’t included in the change because the draw doesn’t mirror the other grades. But he said there is a possibility of including all afternoon grades with the possibility of making it an annual fixture. Brown expects thousands will continue to support the finals no matter where it’s played.
New Plymouth Old Boys (NPOB) and Coastal could be firm favourites to host the finals. In recent seasons, both clubs fielded strong premier, division one and colts teams.
NPOB chairman Keith Mawson said their home ground Vogeltown Park has the facilities and three fields to host the day.
‘‘We might need to think outside the square to accommodate hosting additional teams. It would also be fantastic for our sponsors to get additional exposure to a much larger event.’’
He said it will provide a boost for the division one and colts teams to have an influence on the final result.
But with NPOB, Coastal and Tukapa in the same pool along with Spotswood United, Mawson said each game is a must-win like the solitary round in 2020.
‘‘Every game was a must win, so the intensity and competitiveness of the games was very high and scores close.’’
The competition kicks off on Saturday.