Rugby strong in rural region

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THE season may be winding down, but members of the Otautau Rugby Club are reflecting on what’s been a good year.
The team made the top six in division three of this year’s Southland-wide club rugby competition and is now playing for the Past Presidents Cup.
Club secretary Brent Stearne said there was a ‘‘slight chance’’ Otautau could make the semifinals if they won against Albion Excelsior at the Gore Showgrounds on Saturday at 3pm.
However, win or lose it had been a positive year for the Western Southland club.
‘‘We’ve had a very successful season,’’ Stearne said.
Last year the team rejoined the competition after taking abreak for a couple of seasons, and things were falling into place.
While it was a relatively young team, he said, they were playing well with good numbers.
It was only now, as the season neared the finish line, that some players had become unavailable due to other commitments.
‘‘Heading into the end of the season we have lost a few players. That’s probably hurt us a wee bit.’’
That included Sam McCracken who Stearne said had a really good season before leaving to join the army.
Stearne said it was hard to single out players, as they had all performed very well.
Veteran Otautau player and former team captain Kelvin Tagg was now at the helm of the team in the senior coaching role, with support from Warrick Kent.
There were also a few schoolboy teams in the area, with A, B and C grades and other junior levels, he said.
‘‘They’ve had a great season as well.’’
Rugby was strong in the community, he said, with people lining the sidelines at home and away games.
Sponsor support was also much appreciated.
‘‘Our club couldn’t survive without the support of our local businesses. Our club really appreciates [it].’’
Looking ahead to next year, Stearne said many of this season’s players were planning to return, along with some players keen to return to the club from other teams.
‘‘They’ve heard what’s happening in the club, and it sounds really positive for next year.’’

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