Tokanui steps up to Division One competition

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Tokanui Rugby Club player Brodie Anderson skirts round the back after retrieving the ball in a Presidents' grade game against Waikiwi in Invercargill last Saturday. Tokanui won 48-14. Photo: Dave Loudon

THE Tokanui Rugby Club is progressing positively towards its centenary in 2023.

The club accomplished its goal last season when the senior team won the Division Two competition and gained a promotion to Division One for 2020.

Tokanui Senior team coach Rodger Buckingham said the club had also achieved its second short-term goal by fielding a Presidents’ grade team in 2020.

Buckingham believed it was the first time in five years Tokanui had had a Presidents’ grade team.

“Jake Callahan did a great job assembling that team, it has seven or eight young fellas in there too, who are keen to join our team in the future.”

The senior team is competing in the Division One Gerald Dermody Shield competition with five other teams this year.

Dermody is a Tokanui rugby legend; together with younger brother Gus they helped Tokanui win the Galbraith Shield in 1978.

Buckingham said the team was stoked to be playing for the Shield this year.

“Gerald is notorious in our clubrooms, most players have been summonsed to his bar leaner to soak up some wisdom, and all of our players have benefitted from having Gerald there over the years.”

There were eight new faces in the squad of 28 players this season.

Brendan Cook is the assistant coach and team manager, while the captain’s role is shared between hooker Josh Leith and open-side flanker Elliot Marshall.

Buckingham said the team had certainly noticed the step up in quality in Division One.

“The boys were shell-shocked in the first 20 minutes of our first game against Pioneer. The
Mossburn game was similar; you get limited opportunities against those good defences so
we have to take our opportunities.

“We’ve had a tough draw but we’re up for the challenge, there are no easy games but the boys have adapted quickly and are going good.”

Of the shortened season, Buckingham said the the club rugby in.

“I would’ve liked to have our division go without the final this year — calving and lambing might impact the country clubs during those last two games.”

Tokanui has won three of its four competition games this season and has four round-robin games to play.

It has a big game this Saturday at home against Mossburn, then two away games against Pioneer and Wakatipu, before hosting Albion in the last round on August 8.

Tokanui lost 17-9 to Mossburn in the first round but a home game would be a huge advantage this week, Buckingham said.

“The boys appreciate the tremendous following the team gets. We had unbelievable support at Waikiwi last week, especially with our presidents’ team there too.”

The club also had under-7 and under-10 grade teams competing this season.

There are three or four Tokanui lads in the Southland Boys’ High School under-14 team this year, and it was hoped they would play the curtain-raiser match at Tokanui on Saturday.

The Presidents’ team has a bye this week.

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