Return to three rugby divisions sought

SHARE

A return to the glory days of three divisions in the national provincial rugby championship?

Colin Jackson believes that is more than just a pipe dream.

The North Otago Rugby Football Union chief executive is joining the other Heartland unions in lobbying for a return to a cleaner NPC structure in a couple of years.

Jackson, like a lot of rugby fans, prefers a structure with three divisions – and, crucially, automatic promotion and relegation – to the present split between the two-tiered Mitre 10 Cup and the Heartland Championship.

“There is a lot of discussion about going back to three divisions and we’re still battling away for that,” Jackson told the Oamaru Mail

“In 2019, when the New Zealand Rugby broadcasting discussion starts, that will be the time when we’ve got to get in there and nail it.”

Jackson and representatives of the other provincial unions attended a meeting at national HQ in Wellington recently.

Heartland union bosses also met separately and would continue to lobby the national body to review the national championship structure, Jackson said.

“What it really needs is a Wanganui or a Mid Canterbury to really stand up and lead the charge.”

The biggest grumble for ambitious smaller unions like North Otago over the last decade has been the inability for the Meads Cup winner to move up a level.

Since 2006, the top 14 teams have been protected in the top competition, and the smaller 12 have been ring-fenced in the Heartland Championship.

Jackson has consistently argued the Meads Cup winner deserves an opportunity to join the big unions, if only for a season or two.

“They say you’re not big enough or you couldn’t afford it. But we’re treading water, and the unions need some aspiration.

“No-one is satisfied with the competition structure we have.

“There was nothing wrong with an NPC division one, two and three, and no-one can actually tell us why they moved away from it. It was working beautifully.”