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New draw is better for all

BREAK TIME: Utiku Old Boys and Pirates were next scheduled to meet on June 27 but, instead, all premier teams will have a bye at the same time under a re-formatted draw.
BREAK TIME: Utiku Old Boys and Pirates were next scheduled to meet on June 27 but, instead, all premier teams will have a bye at the same time under a re-formatted draw.

Wanganui Rugby Football Union will redo the draw for the second round of the Tasman Tanning Premier competition to end the frustrating scenario where two teams have a bye every weekend.

Instead, all eight teams will take byes at the same time – Queen’s Birthday weekend on May 30 and then week 15 of the competition on June 27.

The Queen’s Birthday Monday will be used to play the Town vs Country representative trial game over in Hunterville, rather than in Wanganui on a Wednesday or Thursday night.

On June 27 is the scheduled Steelform Wanganui extended squad’s camp, where they will travel to Wellington to play shortened games with Manawatu B and Wairarapa Bush.

Wanganui will also have pre-Heartland Championship warm-up matches against King Country on August 8 and a Hawke’s Bay development team the following week.

WRFU chief executive Bridget Belsham said Wanganui coach Jason Caskey had approached the union with the proposal, which has now been signed off.

“It’s been a discussion with the Council of Clubs for the last couple of weeks.”

Like many club coaches he had spoken to since March, Caskey had been frustrated by the double bye each round; a situation which came about when the Marton Rugby Club announced it was withdrawing their premier team just 10 days before the season kick-off.

“I would rather it was done from the start,” he said yesterday of the change.

“It’s just ridiculous having a double bye each week – it’s just crazy.

“You end up with 45 guys sitting on the sideline not playing rugby.”

Top sides like Integrity Motors Pirates and Waverley Harvesting Border had two byes in the space of three weeks, hampering their development and making momentum hard to maintain.

After Marton’s departure, the WRFU had to rejig the 2015 draw and instituted the double bye because some clubs had already received travel funding so they could send their premier and senior teams to the same places.

As well as club coaches, Caskey and his staff were annoyed because an eight-team season could have ended earlier, allowing them more time to prepare the representative squad for the Heartland campaign.

“You get a lot of guys who don’t do a lot more work outside of training and games,” he said.

“It still gives them two weekends of nothing, but at least the week of the trial they’re not doubling up.”

Caskey said the June 27 camp was always planned, but having a holiday weekend for the Town vs Country trial was more effective than squeezing it in the midweek among club rugby, as four to five players would often withdraw.

“Now they’ve got no excuses.”

All club teams taking a break at the same time should also help form a clearer picture of which sides will be true contenders for the Premier title before club finals day on August 1.

Wanganui’s Heartland campaign starts on August 22 in Levin against Horowhenua-Kapiti.

By Jared Smith – Wanganui Chronicle

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