And then there were eight.
The teams for the 2011 and 2012 Fox Memorial series have been found.
I add 2012 because there will be no qualifying series next season with Auckland Rugby League opting for a NPC type format ala 1998.
So congratulations to Glenora, Howick, Mt Albert, Manurewa, Papakura, Otahuhu, Northcote and Marist for qualifying.
As for Bay Roskill, Pt Chev, Te Atatu, Otara, Richmond, Mangere East, East Coast Bays and Manukau....the grand finalists will make the Fox Memorial next season while the rest can enjoy the wonderful, yet not so satisfying, competition known as the Sharman Cup for another year.
So let us have a look at who are the favourites, who are the dark horses and who Pita Godinet is sneakily playing for in the first round of the Fox Memorial.
If the Fox Memorial had a salary cap there would need to be an investigation into the Hornets because they are scarily good. Charlie Sheen good.
Howick went undefeated in their qualifying pool thumping the last three opponents by 50 or more points on their way to amassing 320 points for and 108 points against.
But the question is can Howick continue this domination against teams like Glenora? We find out in the first game this weekend.....
If I have to make my pick for the 2011 Fox Memorial champions it would be the Bears.
The team's captain from last year, Gavin Bailey, seems to have retired but they still have prop Karl Edmondson leading the way with help from fellow Auckland rep Aaron Booth.
The side only suffered one loss in the qualifying section, to Papakura, but should be a top four finalist.
The side finished second to Howick in pool play but the main reason I have them as a favourite is because of a man who has appeared on their team sheet for the first round this weekend: Pita Godinet.
Unless this is the other Pita Godinet from the Godinet whanau in Canterbury then I have to assume it is the same one who starred in the NSW Cup last season for the Auckland Vulcans and earned himself a contract with the Warriors this year.
If he plays come semi-finals time then watch out. And watch out this weekend Papakura.
Mt Albert Lions
They finished fourth in their pool but Mt Albert is to the Fox Memorial what Manchester United and the Canterbury Crusaders are to their competitions.
This club, more than not, seems to be there at the end and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them at the final hurdle.
Mt Albert faces Otahuhu in a rematch of last year's grand final at Paparoa Park.
What? The defending champion is a dark horse? Well, when the defending champ has to rely on Te Atatu being unable to kick drop goals in their final match of the qualifying round (a 32-32 draw with Papakura) then yes.
Otahuhu has lost a few players (and coaches) from last year and are not the same team which won the title.
But champions always rise to the occasion and maybe Otahuhu will be no different.
After watching their match against Te Atatu at Jack Colvin Park I can't see this club winning it all this year.
Papakura was on the back foot for much of the game and only a late try salvaged something for the men in maroon.
But Papakura did score an upset over Glenora the week before so therefore could be that guy who turns up to the party unexpected and ruins it for everyone else.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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