Zingari-Richmond and Harbour seem set to follow in the footsteps of the Labour and Green Parties by pushing their single beds together.
The clubs are hoping to enter into a strategic partnership which will result in them fielding combined teams in all grades below premier level next year.
They are also considering employing a development officer, who would be responsible for co-ordinating the coaching and management requirements, and also provide a link between the lower grades and the premier teams.
It is not a merger.
Both clubs will retain their premier teams and sense of identity.
But with players in shorter supply, and the benefits of pooling resources obvious, Harbour Rugby Club chairman Lance Spence said the time feels right for the clubs to strengthen ties.
“Numbers are dying off in club rugby and have been for a long, long time,” Spence said.
“And really the clubs need to be running as a business now and the days of surviving when you’re not a business are gone.
“I think there will be clubs go because there are not enough players for the number of premier sides we have in Dunedin. That is just the cold, hard facts and people have just got to face up to it.”
Zingari-Richmond president Murray Collie can see some issues on the horizon with the plan but nothing which he believes is insurmountable.
“This is a proposal and we have a lot of issues that we are going to have work through in terms of how all this is handled,” he said.
“We are going to have to come to some common ground to try to resolve any issues that may or may not crop up.”
“We all have to be mindful of the fact of where club rugby is at the moment and where it could be in the next five years. I’m sure you’ll agree that if player numbers continue to fall off the way they are, we won’t be the only clubs that will be looking at something along these lines.
“It would be terrible if in five years we say ‘Why didn’t we do something’. We’re just being proactive and want to see how far we get with this.
“If it does not get any further in a month’s time and it’s over, we’ve lost absolutely nothing. But if it works and we can get 20 more people playing the game and we see that as being a real positive.”
One of the biggest challenges will be resolving any disputes which emerge when a player is developed through a combined team and is ready to step up to premier rugby.
Who do they play for?
There is also a fair bit of distance between Watson Park and Montecillo, but neither Spence or Collie believes that will be an issue.
Most of the players tend to be based in Dunedin, rather than out at Port Chalmers or Ravensbourne, Collie said.
What the combined teams will be called is still up for debate but the uniform dilemma has been resolved.
When at Montecillo the combined teams will wear the Zingari-Richmond strip and don the Harbour kit at Watson Park.
For away games it will be week about, so nice and equitable.
“This is not new in Dunedin club rugby,” Collie said.
“The Harbour and Green Island senior side plays under the one umbrella and I know it happens at school level, too.
“It comes down to numbers. If we want to keep young people playing, we’ve got to think outside square. If we don’t then the numbers will drop off quite rapidly over the next five to 10 years and who knows where we will be then.”
The club’s premier teams have had contrasting results this season.
Harbour is entrenched in the top four with eight wins, while Zingari-Richmond has just the two wins.
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