SOUTHLAND club rugby’s image has been dealt a blow with one of the province’s marque clubs forced to default a premier fixture on Saturday.
Star, which has won the Galbraith Shield on 28 occasions since 1908, made the tough call on Tuesday night to default its game against Marist on Saturday.
Star had 13 players unavailable for Saturday; nine of those players are injured with four away for other reasons.
The biggest problem was in the front row, Star manager Andrew McHugh said.
“It was a very tough call to make. I know we will cop some grief for making this decision, but it was done for safety reasons,” he said.
Included in the front rowers missing are Morgan Mitchell, who is in Australia with the Highlanders, his brother Brayden, who is recovering from a neck injury, and Sy Waiti, who has a dislocated shoulder.
With Marist having Shaun Stodart and Reuben Northover, who have played at Mitre 10 Cup level, in the mix, McHugh said the Star management was wary of bringing up players from the club’s B team and putting them into a position where they were out of their depth.
The club’s B team also has front row injuries, while the club’s C team plays in the President’s grade, which doesn’t involve pushing in scrums.
“We believe we have exhausted every avenue within our club and even some last-minute phone calls to former players, and we don’t think we would find a prop from division one who would be up to premier standard,” McHugh said.
“This decision was not made lightly. Since my involvement with the club we have always scraped through with extra players from our original squad, even some games having only 17. But this is more serious than anything I have ever seen and unfortunately we have no options.”
Rugby Southland rules state if a team defaults two games in a season, it rules them out of play-off contention.
McHugh was confident this week’s default would be a one-off and Star would be back on the field for its next outing against Pirates-Old Boys.
While Star sits last in the premier competition, the Waverley Park-based team is just six competition points outside the top four at the midway point in the season.