The start of the local rugby season

Sports correspondent & historian
with Sideline Sid

Falling leaves and dropping temperatures signal just one thing for this long-time sports fan - the start of the local rugby season.

I have a long-held belief; that many things in life aren't better or worse, they are just different.

So it is with rugby.

As a primary schoolboy in Wellington, father and son would make the trek every Saturday in winter to Athletic Park, where the best of club rugby would be on show.

All Blacks such as Ron Jarden, Bob Scott, Bill Clarke, Graham Mexted, Ivan Vodanovich and Neville McEwan, would turn out each week for their respective club teams.

The emergence of professional rugby in 1995 turned the game on its head.

In the all amateur game, the pathway to the top was to impress the provincial selectors in club rugby to warrant selection in provincial representative teams and beyond.

Today, the pathway to New Zealand selection is prowess in secondary school rugby through to Super Rugby academies and the Super Rugby game, with participants mainly bypassing club rugby.

There is a now a distinct line between players who choose the sport as a profession and those who play for recreational enjoyment.

However, all is not doom and gloom in the local amateur game, with senior club rugby alive and well in the Western Bay of Plenty.

Last weekend heralded the start of the Baywide premier season, with seven of the 10 sides fighting for Baywide glory emerging from the Western Bay of Plenty.

Leading the Western Bay charge for victory is defending titleholder Te Puna and current Baywide heavyweights in Mount Maunganui and Tauranga Sports.

Also carrying the Western Bay banner is Greerton Marist, Te Puke Sports, Rangataua and Judea.

Those who doubt the attraction of local premier rugby, should try and get parking outside Maramatanga Park, Tauranga Domain, Blake Park and other local premier club headquarters, on a Saturday afternoon.

The really good news is the return of a competitive season-long Colts/U85kg competition.

Tauranga Sports, Mount Maunganui, Te Puna, Te Puke Sports, Greerton Marist and newcomers Papamoa, join Rotorua's Kahukura in this year’s age-group action.

Supporting the successful Baywide format is a 13 team Western Bay of Plenty senior competition.

The mixture of Development and local rugby teams with an eye on Baywide promotion, provides a further level of competitive rugby.

Vigorous support from the Bay Union, players and clubs have seen the Bay of Plenty Women's game explode in recent seasons.

For the first time, a five team premiership division will be supported by eight teams challenging for the championship division title.

Winning form in recent seasons, has seen top seeds Mount Maunganui and Rangataua joined by Ruatoki, Poroporo and Tongariro United in the premiership title race.

Western Bay representation in the championship ranks consists of Te Puke Sports, Greerton Marist and Te Puna.

For the next three and a half months, loyal Western Bay club rugby fans and supporters, in their hundreds, will congregate at Western Bay of Plenty parks until the end of July when hostilities will conclude until the following season.

See ya at the game.

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