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Six out of 10 for club season

We have too many rugby clubs!!

There you go, I’ve said it. In the current environment, there are too many clubs in Wairarapa-Bush for the number of players.

Or do we simply have an overabundance of premier teams?

Because there are certainly not the number of premier quality players to fill those teams.

It might sound harsh, but that’s my observation on the back of another club rugby season, which to my mind, has been a mix of pretty good and bloody awful.

How would you rate it overall?

I would give it a six out of 10! Mainly because there were too many weak links and those chinks are at breaking point at best.

There were five good teams, although Greytown were looking pretty tenuous until their resurgence in the second half of the season saw them reach the ‘Moose’ Kapene Cup final and come within a whisker of pulling off a memorable victory.

Inia Katia, with ball, was Coggie’s Club Player of the Season. PHOTO/FILE

Then there are the other three – East Coast, Gladstone, and Eketahuna – who managed a grand total of five wins between them, all against the other two in that trio.

Eketahuna won their only game in two seasons in the first round of the Lane Penn Cup against a Coasties side that started the game with 12 players. Gladdy beat the Coasties in the seventh-eighth Lane Penn playoff and Eke in the ‘Moose’ Kapene Cup, while East Coast’s wins came over the other two in the ‘Moose’ Kapene championship.

Reports of only six, seven, eight, or nine players turning up for training, players in their 40s and 50s being called on, players who have never played a game of rugby in anger taking the field, 12 players starting a game, and the refusal of senior reserve players to step up and fill in point to deep-rooted problems within the clubs. By the way, I gather this is not unique to Wai-Bush and other unions are battling with similar issues.

Let’s face it, the rural environment has changed with farms being converted to forestry, and less people working in the rural communities, so those country clubs need to think outside the square.

Are mergers the answer, even at just premier level?

Whatever, the problems lie within the clubs and the Wai-Bush Union cannot force mergers, so the clubs need to be proactive [or are they already too late?] before they fall over completely.

Despite the struggles of the bottom three, there were some positives and some outstanding rugby played, so let’s dish out a few fun awards.

GAME OF THE SEASON

It has to be the ‘Moose’ Kapene Cup final won by Carterton 29-26 over Greytown, with an 82nd-minute penalty from a wide angle to a supercool Ben Brooking.

Although probably not the best rugby both teams have played, it was gripping from start to finish and it came down to that one moment – exactly what we want from a final.

THE MUD GLORIOUS
MUD AWARD

Two standout as game of best performance of the season and both feature Carterton winning in the bog at Carterton, firstly over Martinborough 55-19, and secondly their semifinal demolition of Pioneer 45-3, which just edges the former as the better effort.

Hayden Cooper was one of the promising players of the Season. PHOTO/FILE

IMPACT AWARD

It’s hard to go past Inia Katia, whose impact since moving from the backs into the loose forwards has been phenomenal. Whether it’s tackling, forcing turnovers, charging the ball up, or sniping for that half gap around the edges, the veteran Fijian has been in everything.

WARHORSE AWARD

The writing looked on the wall for Tana Isaac when he blew an Achilles tendon playing for his beloved Greytown against Marist last season.

But the old warhorse doesn’t know how to lie down, and was the form No. 8 in the competition, earning a call-up to the Wai-Bush squad, and is set to make his debut at the young age of 42, 22 years after playing for Manawatu as a promising winger.

WHAT HAPPENED AWARD

Well, what happened at Martinborough?

After steamrolling their way to victory over Pioneer in the Lane Penn Cup, the wheels fell off in the championship, and they surprisingly failed to make the semifinals. They were certainly better than that.

COOL AS A
CUCUMBER AWARD

Carterton fullback Ben Brooking, who stepped up when needed most to coolly slot a penalty from a wide angle to win the ‘Moose’ Kapene Cup for Carterton for the second straight season.

WHO TO LOOK
OUT FOR AWARD

A few youngsters showed they have big futures ahead.

Martinborough’s 17-year-old winger Conall Doyle is a rare talent with speed, while Pioneer first-five Zinny Harmon showed maturity in the pivot’s role in his first year out of college. Unfortunately, both their seasons were cut short by serious injuries.

There’s also much to like about Marist winger Hayden Cooper, Greytown fullback Gracyn Evans, Martinborough prop Ty Waight, and East Coast hooker George Parke.

THE WHERE DID
HE GO AWARD

The individual try of the year goes to Nathan Hunt, who swung the Lane Penn Cup final very much in Martinborough’s favour with a brilliant run from his own 22m line after his forwards forced a turnover with Pioneer hot on attack.

THEY DESERVE A GO AWARD

Tuhirangi and Masterton Red Star were a cut above the rest in the Senior Reserves, each averaging about 50 points a game.

Although both may not have immediate success at premier level, they would probably be competitive against the bottom three, based on this season.

The promotion-relegation match is an unfair contest with the challenger having to play some significantly different rules to what they’ve played in senior reserves.

It’s time for the Council of Club delegates to put aside their club biases and give both clubs [if they want to] a crack at premier level.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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