Baywide Rugby Comp returns today

Bay of Plenty Rugby Union is excited to announce the 2017 Baywide Club Rugby Premier Competition kicks off this weekend. File Photo.

The pride, the passion and the glory of club rugby returns to the Bay of Plenty with the 2017 season kicking off today.

Bay of Plenty Rugby Union operations manager Neil Alton says the 2017 Baywide Club Rugby Premier Competition promises to be even more action packed and exciting than the 2016 season.

“It is great to be able to kick off another year of rugby this weekend. We are now in the second year of the current competition structure, club feedback after last year was really positive.

“It provides a meaningful competition in the first round for 12 teams, but because there are only eight places in the second round, it becomes a dog fight to play for the premiership title.”

Neil says the structure also provides clubs who are having “leaner years to find their feet again” and play against appropriate competition.

Once again the Baywide club rugby competition is proudly supported by Gilbert, who is the exclusive ball supplier for this year's competition. All premier clubs will receive a match day ball from the Union.

Media and marketing manager Amanda Thompson says to launch this year's competition BOPRU have produced a social media video which takes viewers on a journey across the Bay and captures the heart of all the clubs, from their whanau through to coaches, junior rugby players', life members and referees.

“This year we wanted to do something a little different. It is a little bit of a gamble but we wanted to acknowledge their support and show them our appreciation for the effort they all put in to get their teams' to run out for their club on Saturday's.

“The response we have had from the clubs has been outstanding and we hope they too are proud of the finished product.”

For the 2017 Baywide Premier Club Rugby draw and weekly results visit the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union's website at: www.boprugby.co.nz

BAYWIDE PREMIER COMPETITION - ROUND ONE:

All games kick off at 2.45pm unless specified otherwise

Arataki v Tauranga Sports:

Arataki will have a stern first challenge facing 2015 champions and last year's semi-finalists Tauranga Sports under new coach Billy Russell.

Despite a number of changes across both teams an exciting mix of young talent will come into the fold. Zane Winslade will again lead the coaching team for Tauranga Sports and will this year be joined by new Assistant coach Euan Mackintosh.

Arataki Head Coach Billy Russell says a few major injuries sustained at the end of last year has meant the they've lost a few senior players.

“But we gain a lot of youth in the new players that have come in. The young guys are really enthusiastic and bring a different dimension to our game so we are looking forward to see how they will cope.”

While Tauranga Sports have a good mix of young exciting talent alongside more experienced guys who have been at the club a while, says head coach Zane Winslade.

“The group have worked really hard together through the pre-season and we have a great bunch of men who are going to represent the club proudly on and off the field, I am sure about that.”

Whakarewarewa v Te Puna:

A new look Whakarewarewa, under head coach Joe Savage will prove a strong challenge for visitors Te Puna. A strong pre-season, with two comprehensive wins over Marist St Michael's and Ngongotaha followed by a dominant 24-5 win over Rotoiti last weekend saw them retain the Tai Mitchell Shield.

However Te Puna have also had a strong pre-season having built on their impressive finishing from late in the second round of the Baywide Club Rugby Premier 1 competition. Te Puna will be looking to continue the winning form starting this weekend.

They will welcome the inclusion of some new faces including Bay of Plenty Academy players' Rewita Biddle and Will Ngatai. However experienced half back Te Aihe Toma will be a loss to the side along with Tana Tuhakaraina and Rob Dunne.

Te Puna Head Coach Aidan Kuka says the team's looking to start the season how it finished in 2016.

“We want to put in performances that our members, supporters, whanau and community will be proud of. Vitai Lampada. March on the Blue and Black army.”

While Whakarewarewa Head Coach Joe Savage says the team's looking to improve on the previous week's performance and continue to improve slightly every week, which by all accounts, they should be able to do again this weekend.

“We are not expecting a lot from our team but we are expecting a big game from Te Puna. We know that they have a few good recruits and have a good coaching structure along with a lot of support on the side line.

“This weekend we will be focusing on discipline especially on defence, judging that offside line and getting used to the referees again. Not too sure what to expect from Te Puna, we always know they are a strong team and proved that last year.”

 

Rangataua v Mount Maunganui

The game of the round will see defending champions Rangataua host runners up Mount Maunganui in a repeat of last year's Baywide Premier Club Rugby final.

Rangataua have retained the core of their 2016 squad, however they will welcome the return of prop Tamati Maruariki and winger Ross Taurima following their year off. John O'Loan and John Moore will lead the coaching team in what is expected to be another strong year for the Papaka.

While Mount Maunganui will be searching for redemption and get the upper hand in the first round of the Baywide Premier competition. With a number of changes to their back line, their experience in their forward pack will be crucial to holding off a fierce Rangataua pack.

“Rangataua's main focus has been retaining the players from last year whilst adding in positions that require depth,” says coach John O'Loan.

“With retaining most of last year's squad, the focus has been picking up where we left off last year. Keep things simple and make the Premier second round top eight.”

Mount Maunganui coach Rodney Voullaire says the team is amped to get this first game off their chest and express themselves as much as possible.

Mount have a similar pack to last year, with the inclusion of couple of new guys joining the team in the forwards, but it is their backline that has had the biggest change, losing seven from last year's backline for various reasons, which has left us with some big shoes to fill.

“Our depth is ok at the moment but it will be interesting to see if the new guys step up. We have had a good pre-season build up with a game against Thames Rugby Club and had a good run out against Takapuna and Hamilton Old Boys'.

“The boys are looking good at the moment but first and foremost our first target will be to make top eight.”

Paroa v Whakatane Marist

In an Eastern Bay of Plenty derby match, Baywide Premier Two winners Paroa will host Whakatane Marist to kick off the 2017 Baywide Club Rugby Competition. Both teams are likely to put in strong performances as they eye up a chance to get an early win on the board.

Paroa, under new coach Mike Smith, will be hoping to continue their aggressive form off the back of their determined finish in the 2016 season.

However, Whakatane Marist under the coaching guidance of Alamoti Te Pou and Craig Edwards were impressive in the first round of the Baywide competition last year, knocking over more than a couple of staunch premier clubs and are a force to be reckoned with.

Paroa head coach Mike Smith says the team's in a positive mind set at this stage.

“The team finished on a high last year and we want to carry that on and Whakatane Marist is our first target. We want to finish as high as we can, making the top eight in this round and then building on that in the second to push for top four.”

Whakatane Marist Coach Craig Edwards says while they've lost a few players from last year, the team's picked up some young guys around the 18-19 year old age bracket.

“In the first round our goal will be targeting to make the top eight and then we will go from there. This weekend we will be putting our front foot forward to achieving our goal.”

 

Rotoiti v Poroporo

Rotoiti under the new coaching team of Willie Royal and Richie Francis will face a huge challenge this year following the loss of a number of influential players, including captain Zac Hohneck and halfback Logan Henry.

However, they've been bolstered by the inclusion of Bay of Plenty Academy players, halfback Te Ra Whata, first five Tame Curtis and hooker Raniera Whakataka, and will be hoping to kick the season off with a win over their visitors.

Poroporo join the Premier division following a successful 2016 campaign and will be looking to cement their place alongside a number of established premier clubs.

It will be a tough challenge to commence their campaign on the road but with a core group of players' and a number of new faces joining their side they will be hoping to provide a solid performance against a prominent premier club.

Poroporo head coach Ed Maui says they can only prepare for the unknown as they've never been in the premier competition, “so we can only prepare as well as we can and leave no stone unturned”.

“We will be going out there to play as hard as we can and try and implement our systems correctly and we will see what happens from there really. We have never played Rotoiti under these circumstances but they are a pretty established team up in the premier division and they are not up there by chance.

“We will treat it like any other game, it is going to be tough but we have to prepare as best we can and see where that takes us. If we get it right way may come up with a scalp otherwise we could see ourselves in the same position Rotoiti were last week.”

While Rotoiti head coach Richie Francis says after finishing fourth in last year's competition the team will be facing a huge challenge this year after losing a number of frontline players from last year's squad.

“These guys have given us great service and we wish them all the best in their new endeavours. With our new coaching group we will still be aiming to reach the same heights as we had done last year.

“We feel we can still build a very competitive team with the group of remaining players and have some exciting young talent from the Bay of Plenty Academy program and other home grown lads who have recently returned home to the Rotoiti area.”

Te Puke Sports v Greerton Marist

Te Puke Sports will welcome the support of their home crowd when they host Greerton Marist to kick off their season.

Greerton Marist, under the new coaching team of Brendon Brill and Brendon Phillips will not be an easy first task for the Te Puke pirates.

With a number of player movements for both teams they will be looking to their experienced players to step up and lead from the front.

Te Puke Sports maybe lacking experience in some areas but has a number of young talented individuals such as Bay of Plenty Academy players Joe Johnston, Jarryd Broughton and Brad Armstrong.

On the other hand, Greerton Marist has a nucleus of experienced players' will be bolstered by the inclusion of two Japanese Club players Yuta Onodera and Chang Taeyook. It will be a tough battle and will test both sides.

Te Puke Sports head coach Craig Jeffries says 2017 is all about going forward and climbing into it right from the start.

“Greerton Marist is always a competitive and determined and it's not going to be any different this year. We have had a huge turnover of players in the offseason and have had a busy off season rebuilding the numbers and hopefully we can become a unit quickly.”

His counterpart, Greerton Marist Head Coach Brendon Brill says they have one of the toughest games of the round against Te Puke Sports, at Murray Salt Park, “a team that is usually well drilled and coached and play a hard physical game”.

“All games of the Round Robin are crucial and this is no exception, but will give our squad a good indication as to where we are. Obviously expectations are to make the top eight in 2017.

“As Rangataua has showed once you make that top eight anything can happen, but to achieve the top eight, that it is a long way off and you have to take each week as it comes.”

For the 2017 Baywide Premier Club Rugby draw and weekly results visit the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union's website at: www.boprugby.co.nz



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