Tipene Haira on the charge for champions Martinborough in the 2019 Tui Cup final. PHOTO/FILE

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

A nine-week-long Wairarapa-Bush premier club championship will kick-off on July 4.

The competition will consist of a full round of matches followed by semifinals, and the final set for August 29.

Clubs will play pre-season games on the weekends of June 20 and 27.

Although NZ Rugby guidelines signalled that community play could start from June 20, Wai-Bush union chief executive officer Tony Hargood confirmed that the Council of Clubs agreed to the later start date at a meeting on Wednesday night.

“Most clubs wanted a four-week lead-in, and this worked in well, giving the clubs the chance to play a couple of pre-season games,” he said.

Defending Tui Cup champions Martinborough, Greytown, Carterton, Gladstone, Marist, East Coast, Eketahuna, and Pioneer, who return after a two-year absence from the top division, make up the premier championship.

With four teams to have four home games and the other four to have three home games, the fixtures will be determined by a random draw.

Hargood said that the teams who receive three home games would be allocated an extra home game in the organised round of pre-season games on June 27.

After the completion of the seven rounds, the top four teams qualify for the semifinals.

The Council of Clubs will confirm on June 10 which trophy, the Tui Cup or Moose Kapene Cup, will be presented to the champion side. The bottom four will contest the playoffs for the Hodder-Steffert Cup.

“There are a number of competition rules that will need to be changed to cover off a unique season as there will be only one round,” Hargood said.

“The clubs have indicated they will take a proactive and positive approach to any final recommendations.”

Hargood said that with finals to be played on August 29, there would be time for some representative games in September and October.

That could feature games for the Bruce Steel Memorial Cup against Horowhenua-Kapiti and Wanganui. A match against Poverty Bay for the Jeremy David Memorial Trophy, and a fixture with East Coast are other possibilities.

The senior reserve club competition will also get under way on July 4, with entries to close on June 10.

Hargood confirmed JAB [junior] and college grade rugby would be played over 10 weeks in school term three.