Citizens Shield to start tomorrow week, touch wood

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The Citizens Shield has had a spruce up.

The shield itself has received some tender love and care in the off season and is polished and ready for its new owners to lift it on July 9.

North Otago Rugby chief executive Colin Jackson said the shield was looking ‘‘very, very impressive’’ and he was excited for the season ahead.

The North Otago Rugby season is scheduled to get under way next Saturday, April
2.

However, in an ever-changing Covid-19 environment, a Club Rugby Council meeting will be held on Monday when a final decision will be made.

Jackson said the council would decide how the competition would look, and other factors needing to be considered.

‘‘We’ve just decided to sit back [and] breathe through our nose a little bit. We’ll make that final call on the 28th, but . . . we hope to kick off [on April 2],’’ Jackson said.

The Citizens Shield will follow the same format as last year — two rounds and three› week finals, a format backed by the clubs. In the semifinals, first and second and third and fourth qualifiers play each other. The winner of the first semifinal goes straight to the final, while the loser plays the winner of the third›fourth match.

It was about ‘‘quality over quantity’’ and the mindset from all the clubs had been really positive.

The past few seasons had been tough with Covid-19 disruptions and Jackson said the way all clubs adapted was impressive.

‘‘They’ve said, ‘It is what it is and we can sit back and say no or get on with it’.

‘‘All our clubs care — care that we’ve been doing this for a long time and we don’t want to lose any club.

‘‘All noses are in the right direction. It’s good.’’

There were plenty of new players joining and returning to the Citizens Shield competition this year and Jackson said every year he looked forward to witnessing what they brought to North Otago rugby.

The North Otago Rugby union was grateful for the ongoing support and sponsorship from the Oamaru Licensing Trust and Liquorland for the club rugby season.

North Otago Rugby development officer and Heartland coach Jason Forrest also looked forward to seeing new players in action, and what teams could produce this year.

‘‘Last year anyone could have actually beaten anyone on their day,’’ Forrest said.

‘‘Blues and Athies didn’t make the playoffs but they challenged a lot of teams.’’

Clubs had recruited well and Forrest and Jackson said it was fantastic to see all clubs picking up some players straight out of St Kevin’s College and Waitaki Boys’ High School.

There are also several players making the step up from president’s grade to Citizens Shield this year.

President’s grade is expected to get under way in May, with Union, Excelsior, Kurow and Valley competing.

The president’s final will be played as a curtain raiser for the Citizens Shield final on July 9 at Whitestone Contracting Stadium.

The start date for the Dunedin women’s club competition had been pushed back and the union is waiting for a revised start date for when the Waitaki Wahine can get their campaign under way.