Stag's departure irks Midlands

JUMPING FENCE: Tim Cornforth will join Star for the remainder of the season.
JUMPING FENCE: Tim Cornforth will join Star for the remainder of the season.

Midlands coach Mike Cunningham admits to being disappointed in Tim Cornforth's decision to turn his back on the club and instead join Star for the remainder of the 2013 Southland premier club season.

The Australian winger has re-signed with the Southland Stags for the 2013 season and will arrive back in Invercargill this weekend in the leadup to the Stags' provincial campaign.

Midlands recruited Cornforth in 2011 to play for the Winton-based club, where he impressed and in turn was signed to play for the Stags.

Cunningham himself was heavily involved in getting Cornforth to Southland and felt the change of clubs was "poor form" considering what Midlands had done for him by giving him his initial chance in the province.

Part of the lure to jump clubs for Cornforth would have been the fact Midlands is all but out of the running for a place in the playoffs, where Star is likely to be a semifinalist, at least.

Understandably, it is not a reason that will sit all that well with those out Winton way.

Cornforth's recruitment had been part of Midlands' proactive approach in recent seasons to help get them up to speed since they joined Southland's premier grade in 2007.

Cornforth was one of three Australians lured to the club last season, while this season they have recruited two Englishmen and a former Fijian international sevens representative - Maleli Bula - to bolster their team.

The approach has divided opinion among club members on whether they should continue down the same path next season.

Some have suggested they would like the club to stick solely with locals, which could result in them playing their rugby in the division one competition in coming seasons.

It is something that will be reviewed by the club at the end of the season, but Cornforth's decision to change clubs has added another interesting twist in the debate on Midlands' direction.

In terms of the Stags, Cornforth's signing is positive for their 2013 aspirations.

The 29-year-old was one of Southland's most dangerous attacking threats in 2012, when he started on the wing in nine of the 10 games.

Cornforth is an obvious starting option on the wing for the Stags this season as well, while others playing in the club competition at the moment who will be looked at include Marist's Keanu Kahukura and Star's Junior Ngaluafe.

Ngaluafe has, however, continued to have injury problems.

It is also understood the Stags decision-makers are looking at a couple of possible backline options who are playing club rugby in Auckland at the moment.

It is understood Gareth Williams-Spiers - who played for Southland in the national sevens tournament in Queenstown this year - is a possible target to be brought south, with his Auckland Suburbs team-mate Willis Halaholo another.

Meanwhile, Cornforth's new club, Star, will take on Woodlands at Woodlands on Saturday in premier rugby, while his old club Midlands has the bye.

In other premier games on Saturday, the Eastern-Northern Barbarians will host Blues at Riversdale and Pirates-Old Boys and Marist will meet at Surrey Park.

Pirates Old Boys' clash with Marist is the game which has the most riding on it this weekend, with the two teams sitting third and fourth in the competition's points standings.

The winning team will put themselves in a strong position to book one of the four semifinals spots.

The Southland Times