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Premiers back to two rounds

A big crowd watching the 2021 Lane Penn Trophy final at Greytown. PHOTOS/FILE


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The Wairarapa-Bush premier club rugby championship will return to a full two-round competition this season after two years of abbreviated versions.

The 2020 covid-19 lockdown resulted in the club season starting three months late in July and being reduced to one round plus playoffs. Last season, the teams played a three-round Town and Country series, followed by a full round.

The Town and Country competition for the Lane Penn Trophy proved to be a popular concept, attracting a massive crowd at Greytown for the final in which Greytown beat Eketahuna 63-21.

Wai-Bush chief executive Tony Hargood confirmed the competition would again be played over the first round and two sets of points tables will run concurrently.

“When the teams in the pools play each other, their points are accumulated, and that will determine who the finalists will be in the second round,” Hargood said.

Marist, Pioneer, Carterton, and Greytown make up the ‘Town’ pool, and Eketahuna, East Coast, Gladstone, and Martinborough comprise the ‘Country’ pool. The first-placed team in each pool will play for the Lane Penn Trophy on their scheduled clash in the second round.

After two full rounds [14 games], the top four teams will qualify for the premier championship semifinals, with the two winners to play in the grand final for the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Memorial Cup.

Hargood said Wai-Bush have processes in place should there be any disruptions because of covid-19, and they’re taking a positive attitude and will deal with any issues as they arise.

“The clubs have been given information on how to conduct preseason training. There’s a Council of Clubs’ meeting next week, and we’ll just look at some options if the competition is disrupted.

“But because it’s two full rounds, there will be flexibility on how we can manage it.”

Wai-Bush also intend to livestream more games this season.

Last year, the live coverage on the Wai-Bush Facebook page proved popular with those who couldn’t get to games, so this season’s premier competition matches would also be livestreamed.

That could also result in more premier club games being played at Wai-Bush headquarters Trust House Memorial Park, which has been rarely used for premier fixtures over recent seasons.

Although the final makeup of the club squads won’t be known until close to the start date, Hargood is aware two players have moved on from last year’s champions, Greytown.

Lewis Bush, on the charge for Wai-Bush, will be missing from the premier club competition.

Wai-Bush player of the year, blockbusting prop Lewis Bush has moved to Hawke’s Bay for work, but is likely to return for the representative season, and prop-No 8 Chris Hemi has moved to Australia.

The premier and senior reserve competitions both kick off on April 2, with the finals in late July.

A major focus for the coming season though will be the promotion of women’s rugby.

A Wai-Bush team played representative games last season against Whanganui and a Manawatu Development side, and Hargood is keen to build on that.

“We’ve already asked about entering the Manawatu competition, and there’s a long-term Heartland rugby strategy to have a women’s comp by 2024 similar to the men.”

He said the team would be a combined club side and play their home games at Memorial Park.

Wai-Bush are also introducing a women’s Friday night competition to be played at the park for club and secondary school players.

Another important step in the junior and development areas is the appointment of a rugby development manager based in South Wairarapa.

Hargood said the calibre of the applicants was outstanding and he hoped to have the successful applicant working by the beginning of March.

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