Tawa begin Wellington club rugby season against Marist St Pats
Tawa's premier rugby team's quest to get into the history books will be kicked off with a tough match against Marist St Pat's on the opening day of the 2017 club rugby season.
The just-released Swindale Shield draw has a gala day on March 18 at Upper Hutt's Awakairangi and Maoribank parks.
The early start to the season means the two midweek night matches will be scrapped this season.
Tawa's game against MSP is likely to be the feature of the first round, with the Lyndhurst Park-based club looking to become the third consecutive side - after Hutt Old Boys Marist and Old Boys University - to win the Swindale Shield the year after winning the Jubilee Cup.
Doug Fletcher has signed on for another season as Tawa's coach and he will be aided by Wellington and former Highlanders representative Shaun Treeby, who is likely to play as well.
Treeby takes over from Willie Lafaele, who left the assistant coach role at the end of the season.
Gerard Fasavalu will continue as Northern United's coach, with a focus on getting into the Jubilee Cup. His assistants will be Rob Aloe and Tane Langdon-Lane, while Matt Poutoa continues with the women's team.
Phil Gibb has taken over the helm at Paremata Plimmerton from Javan Brown and he'll be assisted by Mike Hunter, the two having worked at Horowhenua-Kapiti previously.
On February 14, Wellington Rugby Football Union also released details of changes to the club rugby competition format, following consultation with clubs.
In the Swindale Shield and Harper Lock competitions, there will be a 13-game round robin, which includes matches on the afternoon of Anzac Day.
The second-round Jubilee Cup format remains unchanged, but there are major differences to the Hardham Cup.
It will be reduced from eight to six teams, will only be contested by premier teams and will be in a home-and-away format over 10 weeks, with no semi-finals or final.
WRFU board chairman Peter Scott said the changes would create a fairer and closer competition.
"The new format will avoid the difficulties created when premier and premier reserve teams from the same club have been drawn to play in different locations, particularly during the Jubilee and Hardham Cup rounds," he said.
"It will help clubs draw more patrons to their clubrooms on Saturday afternoons, with premier reserve sides playing curtain raisers to the main game."
The Jubilee and Hardham Cup rounds are scheduled to start on June 10 with the Jubilee Cup final pegged for August 5 or 6.
The opening matches on March 18 for the Porirua basin sides, all 2.45pm:
- Tawa v Marist St Pat's, Awakairangi Park No 4
- Northern United v Petone, Awakairangi Park No 2
- Paremata Plimmerton v Oriental-Rongotai, Maoribank Park No 1