North Otago rugby clubs bucking trend


North Otago has never been afraid to march to the beat of its own drum.

While club rugby competitions everywhere else in the South have been delayed due to the Omicron outbreak, the Citizens Shield will start as scheduled tomorrow.

The union’s club council met on Monday night and confirmed its desire to stick to the plan given the easing of restrictions and the fact clubs had not been badly affected so far.

‘‘I thought the clubs might have wanted to wait another week,’’ North Otago Rugby Football Union chief executive Colin Jackson said.

‘‘But they just want to get on with it, and I think that probably reflects where New Zealand is at. People are ready to get socialising and get

‘‘The clubs voted to start this Saturday. They’ve made that call themselves, and they’re excited about it.

‘‘I’m nicely surprised about the positivity from everyone that just wants to get on with the 2022 season.

‘‘It’s easy to find reasons not to play, but they haven’t done that, which is good. Well done to them.’’

Maheno had been light on player numbers so far, but the other five clubs were looking positive, Jackson said.

There had been a sprinkling of pre-season games in the province, but it was likely club players would be a little rusty.

‘‘They’ve been training for a while, but obviously you can’t replicate match fitness. ‘‘It’s the same for every team, though, and I think it’s positive they want to play.’’ Jackson said

There were no reports of clubs dealing with high numbers of Covid cases. However, all were well aware that the virus could have an impact on the season.

‘‘Everyone is realistic. It could go through a club very easily this week or next week.

‘‘But everyone feels keen to make hay while the sun shines.’’

Jackson said there were no specific rules around things like how many Covid cases a club would need to report before it was able to default a game.

‘‘We haven’t looked into that. It really just depends on the depth of a club.

‘‘You just keep going till you run out of players, I guess.’’

The situation is fluid, but it appears North Otago will be one of the very few New Zealand provinces to start club rugby this weekend.

The union plays two full rounds before a three-week playoff series.

North Otago was diving back into player recruitment, for both club and Heartland Championship-level players, now the borders were opening.

‘‘We’ve started the process now of looking overseas, just to see who is available,’’ Jackson said.

‘‘No doubt one of our clubs, or maybe more than one, will struggle for numbers at some stage, and we have to be cognisant of that.’’

Defending Citizens Shield champion Kurow opens the season with a home game against Athletic Marist. Maheno hosts Old Boys, and Excelsior plays Valley on the main ground.