Shortened season on the cards for Taranaki club rugby

The CMK club season will have a delayed start. Photo/ LDV Photography

Growing Covid-19 cases in the region forced the Taranaki Rugby Football Union (TRFU) to delay the start of the CMK club season.

At a virtual meeting on Wednesday night between the TRFU and club chairs, it was decided to postpone the season until the beginning of May, a month after its original start date.

TRFU community and operations manager Cole Brown says the postponement will allow rugby to operate without disruption and with less restriction and exclusion.

“We’re finding most clubs have experienced Covid within their players and we appreciate that will be an issue moving forward. We’re biding time and hopeful by May, we’re past the peak and mandates will be a thing of the past. “

Instead of teams playing two full rounds, a shorter format will begin the season on Saturday, May 7, before one full round.

A north-south competition was touted but the union settled with a “moana-maunga” split. New Plymouth Old Boys, Spotswood United, Coastal and Tukapa will play in the moana (sea) pool, while Clifton, Inglewood, Stratford/Eltham and Southern make up the maunga (mountain) group.

Each team will play each other once in their pool across premier, division one and colts grades.

“It will be a stand-alone competition and we will be using our sponsors to generate some prizes for the teams to make it meaningful for our participants and spectators,” Brown said.

If the region is still experiencing challenges with Covid, the moana-maunga competition can be modified to suit.

After the three-week competition, points will be scrapped before the start of one full round on Saturday, May 28. Taranaki Rugby used the same format in 2020 after lockdown.

Club finals day is still scheduled for Saturday, July 23, at Yarrow Stadium. Brown says a later finish will have an impact on players’ preparations for the domestic window.

“It will also crossover into calving, which will affect our rural clubs.”

The decision for a shorter season takes away the union’s contentious two-round format, where points are halved after the first round. It also means evening matches, which had been scheduled for the first three weeks, are scrapped.

But Brown said clubs still favor a 14-week season because they are reliant on hospitality income and realize they will need to “diversify their revenue streams”.

The union decision is also reflecting those nationwide. Neighbors Waikato delayed their competition by a week and the Taranaki rugby league moved their remaining season to July, after three rounds.

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