The Jarrad Blackler Memorial Match between the Kurow and Mackenzie rugby clubs is always a special one.
The game was established in 2016 to remember Blackler, who played for both clubs and was just 23 when he died in May 2015. The Blackler family instigated the idea of a memorial trophy to ensure Jarrad’s name would live on in both clubs.
Ever since the inaugural match seven years ago, the trophy had eluded Kurow — and coach Tim Anderson said his side was pretty determined to win it this year.
‘‘We’d talked about it at the end of last year . . .we’d never won it, and we wanted to win it,’’ Anderson said.
On Saturday, the Red Devils finally got there, beating Mackenzie 44-19 at home and adding the trophy to their cabinet for the first time, to go alongside the 2021 Citizens Shield.
Saturday’s memorial match was a typical pre-season hitout for Kurow — it was hot and ‘‘everyone got a bit of a shock that they weren’t as fit as they were last time they played’’, Anderson said.
‘‘It was a pretty good win.
‘‘I was pretty happy with our [defence] and our attack.
‘‘It’s just good to get rugby under way, as well. I know a lot of other clubs are having problems with Covid.’’
Kurow’s pre-season training started in early February. While Anderson could still call on an experienced core of players from last year’s squad, the club had lost several others this season — and mostly backs.
‘‘We’re definitely short on backs. I think we’ll see some loose forwards playing in the backs sometimes, that’s just the way it is.’’
But there were some exciting new additions. Former Highlanders utility back Matt Faddes, who has a farm in the Kurow area, had been training with the team and made his debut on Saturday. Paddy Henwood had returned to the club, and Lachie Mee had also moved into the area.
Anderson was also hopeful Hayden Parker and Hayden Todd would be able to play for Kurow in the second half of the Citizens Shield season.
Ben Nowell, who tried to retire after Kurow’s Citizens Shield win last year, made a return for Saturday’s match — and a few others, including North Otago fullback Levi Emery, were called in to help out.
Another planned pre-season game, against Taieri, was postponed due to Covid-19, and Anderson was working the phones to try to arrange something else for Kurow before the Citizens Shield competition got under way next month. Until then, his side would continue training ‘‘as long as Covid doesn’t hit us’’.
Winning the Citizens Shield for the second year in a row was always going to be Kurow’s goal this season — but Anderson was not getting ahead of himself.
‘‘We did what we did last year, but this is a new season and a new team,’’ he said.
‘‘You’ve got to keep your feet firmly on the ground, you’ve got to put a team together, compete and do the basics right — and then hopefully put yourself in a good spot to . . . be in contention at the end of the season.’’