OPINION: HAVE we just seen a truce in a Southland rugby civil war which has been bubbling away in recent years?
The Town and Country rugby relationship has hit rock bottom in recent years and at one point a Country contingent even floated the idea of a breakaway club competition.
At the centre of the relationship breakdown was this: Town makes up five of the six premier clubs and representatives have been keen on change for some time, while most – but not all – in Country have been eager for their division one, two, and three competitions to remain untouched.
Many of the premier clubs became tired of playing the same teams year in, year out. Rugby Southland officials also indicated they felt they needed to have eight strong premier teams in the quest to build more top-end playing depth.
On the flip side, Country clubs had been content to play off in the lower grades, where the competitions were tight and well supported.
Each year a new review was rolled out and each year the debate went around in circles before the status quo largely remained.
The previous voting system was stacked against the Town clubs, and whenever changes were mooted to help boost the premier competition, the premier clubs felt sidelined.
This off-season feels different – at the very least it seems there is a united front in terms of looking at potential change for the betterment of Southland rugby as a whole.
Last year’s division one club rugby champion, Wyndham, was pondering a step up to the premier grade next year and it seemed other division one clubs were at the very least willing to discuss the idea.
Rugby Southland has held various meetings in recent weeks and those in attendance have suggested it was a more united bunch at the moment in the Southland club rugby community.
At the very least change was seriously being investigated – that in itself has been a big step forward.
What happens from here will be intriguing.