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Metro Division 1 Preview
Expect this season’s Metro Division 1 season to be one of the most competitive on record.
While last season the reality was that perhaps one of only five or six teams could win the Cup and Trophy competitions, this season promises to be more even.
While Christchurch deserves the right to be called pre-season favourites, there are certainly no guarantees that they will continue on their merry way this year.
When you add in the interesting addition of Sumner to the mix, you get a feeling that this is going to be one of the most interesting seasons on record as teams compete in Cup, Pennant (which is a new addition) and Trophy rounds.
Let us also not forget that a number of other sides in the competition – the likes of University, Sydenham and Lincoln University – will have benefited greatly from the experience that they gained last season. They will all be very competitive in 2010.
This season there are 12 teams taking part in Metro Division 1 (the 11 from last season plus Sumner). So here then is a closer look at the teams who make up the grade.
Belfast has most of its players back from last season, according to its coach Don Fisher. “We have had a couple of losses, but on the whole we have the same squad.” Don says that he is excited by the fact that his squad will have had an extra year’s experience, while he says that he is delighted with the return of captain Andrew Maguire. “We have certainly put in the work pre-season and are eagerly looking forward to the start of the competition.” Belfast takes on Linwood this Saturday.
Burnside has retained its strong forward pack, although it has lost five of its backline from last season. “Tom Taylor is back for us though and he will lead the backs,” coach Steve Ellis says. “He is a young man but a very classy player and we feel he is ready for the responsibility.” Mike Davis has also returned from playing Air New Zealand Cup rugby with Northland.
Steve says that his side is again likely to lose a number of its players to Canterbury during the season. Burnside takes on Lincoln University this Saturday.
Christchurch coach Brad Mooar says that he is “pretty happy” with the way his squad has prepared for the season. While the red and blacks have lost some players (such as Pete Bowden (retired) and Steve Alfeld (to Tasman)) from last season, they have picked up Nick Roulston from Lincoln University and Frenchman Sev Prats amongst others. They have also been bolstered by a number of Colts who have made the step up. Brad says that there is no pressure on his side and that their aim is to go out and win the cup and trophy again this season.
High School Old Boys made the top four last season and it has retained most of its squad from last season. Coach Duncan Doig says that they too have promoted six of their championship-winning Colts team from last season and that they should be competitive throughout.
“We have worked extremely hard in the off season and we know that the competition will be as strong this season as it ever has been. Still, our focus is on playing to the best of our collective abilities.” High School Old Boys takes on New Brighton on Saturday.
Lincoln University is another side that despite its university status have few changes this season. Although they have lost Nick Roulston to Christchurch, they have obtained Crusader Robbie Fruean. “He has been to a number of our training runs and we are hoping that he will play two or three matches for us,” coach Mark Herbert says.
Mark is excited about the development within his side and says they have physically and mentally matured. “They will be much better for having played together last season.” Lincoln University play Burnside on Saturday.
Beaten finalists Linwood are also much the same as last season. Coach Ian Mallard says that while they will be without Crusader Willie Heinz for some of the season, they remain largely intact. He says that there are a number of things that they have to work on, especially their kicking game and their set pieces (particularly if Hurricane James Broadhurst is missing). He says his side has trained well in the pre-season and is looking forward to its first match against Belfast on Saturday.
Marist Albion is rebuilding this season according to its coach Johnny Smith. “We really had a clean out last season and as a result we are very much a young team this year,” he says. Although they have their inspirational captain (and club player of the season) Rowan O’Gorman back on deck, they do not have too much experience in other positions. Marist Albion takes on University at home on Saturday, when they will unveil their new playing strip.
New Brighton coach Steve Crotty has kept together the bulk of his squad from last season, although will be without his three professional players – Ryan Crotty, Tyson Keats and Isaac Ross – for the bulk of the season. Hooker Marcel Cummings-Tooms has returned to the club, while half-back Chris Young is a useful acquisition (although he recently dislocated his shoulder). New Brighton takes on Old Boys at the weekend.
Shirley coach Brendan Laney is as upbeat as ever about his side’s chances. “With us there really is only one way we can go and that is up”. He says his side has picked up a couple of players and that they will also be better for having played together last season. He says having Christchurch first up will be a great opportunity for his lads and that they are looking forward to it.
Sumner (profiled below) takes on Sydenham at St Leonards Square in one of the most exciting clashes of the round on Saturday. It is believed that Sumner is the only club in Metro rugby that has not had a Division 1 side.
Sydenham coach Dave Hewett says that their pre-season has been extremely good and that his side is looking forward to the season. Sydenham may be one of the sides to watch this year as it has a number of Colts who have made the step up, although it also has some hardened experience, the likes of loose forward Andy Stead. “Although we have lost Elliot Dixon to Southland, we have three New Zealand under-20 triallists and so we have some potential in the side,” Dave says. The cardinal and blues also have a number of players who have been through the Canterbury and Sydenham academies.
University will be under Steve Surridge and Simon Forrest again this season and are another side to keep a close eye on. Simon says that they have prepared well with some Sevens rugby. “We had 13 or 14 new players last season and they have come back and will be better for last season.” Despite the pre-season talk, Simon says that the only pressure that is on them is from themselves. “We really have to play well first for people to start talking about us as contenders,” he says.
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