INVERCARGILL Blues is Southland’s oldest and most successful rugby club.
Last season the South City club won the Galbraith Shield for the 32nd time since 1874.
This year Blues is fielding four senior teams; premier, division two (CJ Soper Trophy), president’s, and a women’s team.
Blues is again well represented in the primary school competitions with an under-13 team in A grade, under-11 and under-10 teams in B grade, three under-9 C grade teams, plus an under-8 team. There is also one Rippa under-7 team and two under-6 teams.
The Blues premier grade team has lost some key players from last year’s champion side but still has a strong enough squad to push for a place in the final on August 15.
Mark Crosbie and Simon Frisby provide some continuity as co-coaches of the premier team. Co-manager Phil Rodger said the club was in pretty good shape despite numbers being tight in the premier team.
Shoulder surgery for halfback Jay Renton and knee surgery for flanker Ben Paulin has ruled them out. Fellow Stags loose forwards Taine Te Whata and Bill Fukufuku have also left the club, along with first five-eighth Mitch Taylor while prop Ethan De Groot is with the Highlanders. Former Stag utility back Pehi Te Whare has retired.
Loose forward Sam Winsloe now has a hamstring injury, while Brandon Rodgers needs a shoulder reconstruction and impressive young hooker Jacob Payne is also out injured for three weeks.
Big responsibility is on captain Michael Peterson, while the experienced utility Daniel Townson is back for his 18th season. Block-busting midfielder Kelepi Holi will be needed to replicate his excellent 2019 form. The contingent of promising players who joined the club fresh out of Southland Boys’ High School this year includes first five-eighth Ryan Taylor.
The premier team got its 10-game round-robin campaign under way last week with a 24-7 loss at Woodlands. Blues trailed 17-7 at half-time and held the competition favourites to a scoreless last 20 minutes played in miserable conditions.
This Saturday, Blues faces last year’s finalist Star at Balmoral Drive. Blues B is at Tuatapere, the presidents grade team is at Wyndham and the women’s team has a home game on Sunday at 1pm against Pioneer.
Blues is one of the four clubs involved in the women’s competition this year. Blues won all five of its round-robin games last year but then lost the final to Marist 10-0.