SHARE
Gutted . . . Disappointed the public will not be able to come to the Farmlands Cup match in Weston are (from left) Farmlands Oamaru manager Steffan Souness, Maheno rugby club committee member Marty McAtamney, organising committee member Sally-Ann Donnelly, Valley club custodian Don Roney and Valley president Hamish Loe. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

The Highlanders are ‘‘devastated’’ they will not be able to welcome the North Otago community to their pre-season clash with the Crusaders in Weston next week.

The Farmlands Cup game will still be played at the Valley grounds next Friday, but it will not be open to the public after New Zealand moved into the Red traffic light setting at 11.59pm on Sunday.

Valley president Hamish Loe said the match was the first of its kind to be held in Weston, and the change was ‘‘very disappointing’’ for the organisers and everyone involved.

‘‘All the fundraising capability of the last four-five months work has just gone ‘boof’, as lots of people and businesses have,’’ he said. ‘‘But there’s not much we can do it about it, you’ve just got to go ‘oh well’, put it down to a learning experience and move on.’’

The Highlanders and Crusaders scheduled school visits, Milligans Family Fun Day, and Sir Dave Dobbyn’s performance at the match were all cancelled.

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said the franchise was ‘‘devastated’’ to close the game to the public and cancel other commitments.

‘‘Our pre-season games are always some of out favourite events where we can get out to our regional areas,’’ Clark said.

‘‘We also wanted to say a huge thank you to the Valley Rugby Club and the Weston community for rallying behind the event and creating a blueprint for a fantastic Farmlands Cup.

‘‘We hope to be able to return to Weston and North Otago in the future to play in front of this deserving community.’’

Although the Farmlands Dinner fundraiser would still go ahead on Thursday night, numbers for the event would be reduced from 300 to 100.

‘‘It’s disappointing for all three country clubs — that was going to be a good fundraiser for all of us.’’

Highlanders and Crusaders players, management and staff would no longer attend.

However, Loe was thrilled former All Blacks coach Sir Steve Hansen would be the guest speaker.

All Farmlands Cup tickets bought online will be automatically refunded through Ticketek. Tickets bought from Farmlands stores need to be returned to the store for a refund.