Solutions to club competition troubles needed

JAMIE SEARLE
Last updated 05:00 29/04/2014

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A rugby league club competition with Otago could be a way to keep the sport alive in Southland, Bruce Aupori says.

Aupori has been involved in many areas of Southland league in the past 31 years, including as referee, referee co-ordinator, coach, player, helper and organiser of school competitions. He is a level 2 referee and will officiate if needed. Three of the four main Southland referees are not graded.

A shortage of players and graded referees was threatening the future of league in Southland, Aupori, of Invercargill, said yesterday.

He believed a meeting of board members of the Southland District Rugby League, club officials, coaches, managers and referees had to be held as soon as possible to find solutions.

Aupori was disappointed the two games on Sunday finished early. Referee Tim Kirikiri called off the Winton Warlords-Cowboys game 22 minutes from the end at Winton.

Attempts to contact Kirikiri have failed, but The Southland Times understands he cut short the game because of a spectator's comment.

City Invercargill could field only 11 players - two short - for its game against He Tauaa in Invercargill.

A joint decision was made by coaches, the referee and officials to finish the game 20 minutes early because City were struggling and a few players suffered injuries. He Tauaa won 118-0.

"That [score] is not a good look for league," Aupori said. "Our level of league is not lifting."

With Bluff, Mataura and Queenstown not taking part this year, the Southland competition comprises five teams - He Tauaa, Cowboys, Cooks, Winton Warlords and City Invercargill.

A lot of players played rugby union on Saturday and backed up on the league field on Sunday. Aupori thought the province had 40 to 50 league-only players.

"The guys that do both put 100 to 120 percent into rugby and a few are half-hearted [in league] on Sunday."

A hard rugby game on Saturday could affect a player's performance on Sunday.

Aupori said it could be time to have league-only players in the sport and have two or three strong teams for a southern clubs' competition with Otago, if it was agreeable.

Clubs could do fundraising to cover travel costs, Aupori said.

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- The Southland Times

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