Premier 1's - Reduction to six team competition looks likely

Premier 1’s – Reduction to six team competition looks likely

A club rugby administrator says there could be just six clubs left in the Dunedin premier competition in a few years and overseas clubs are eyeing up local players.

Too many clubs are chasing too little talent and eventually some clubs will just not be able to field a premier team.

Harbour Rugby Football Club president Lance Spence said his club was losing players to Asia as the results of the Rapid Rugby competition setting up an Asia Pacific Dragons side in Singapore.

Spence said Otago players Joketani Koroi, Sekonaia Pole, Naulia Dawai and Melani Matavao were all set to go to Singapore and he could not blame them.

”They are players who have all played for Otago and are at the next level down from Super Rugby. They want to get a paid rugby job and this is a great opportunity for them,” Spence said.

”But that is not great for club rugby. They are going to come back and play for Otago as their competition finishes in June but club rugby will nearly be finished by then.”

The Asia-Pacific Dragons are to be coached by Otago Boys’ High School coach Ryan Martin while Harbour assistant coach Hale T-Pole is also involved in the side.

The United States is also setting up a competition and players will have to be found for those teams. Although many of the teams in the United States want to have mainly American players, players from other countries may find their way into sides.

Harbour and Otago prop Giorgio Bower has been signed by the Crusaders to train with the Super Rugby franchise as a replacement player and it is unclear how long he would be in Christchurch, Spence said.

Spence said Harbour had to look to get players for those leaving and had to go outside Dunedin.

”We just don’t seem to get a lot of players from Dunedin. And that is mainly because they are not there.

”Guys are not playing the game any more and it is sooner or later going to catch up with clubs.

”I just can’t see there being nine premier club teams next year. Clubs are struggling to get players.

”It is changing fast, very fast, and clubs have to adapt or die. In a few years I can see us being down to six clubs. I hope not but the players are simply not there.

”I don’t know what the answer is.”

He said the Harbour club was now sourcing players from Auckland and the Pacific Islands and they were happy to come nd play for the club. He was confident of fielding a competitive side next year. Harbour shared the banner with University last season.

A lack of top-class players impacted on the competition.

”What used to happen is every team would have three or four Otago players in their team and that would be a real help to them. They would lift the guys around them and help the game.

”But now guys are not there and others have to come in. Many of them are not ready.”

He also said highly trained professional Highlanders who played in club rugby often made it dangerous as they were so much bigger and stronger than ordinary club players.

Harbour had discussed a merger with two clubs but nothing was agreed and no merger was on the table at the moment, Spence said.

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