Unlike the previous years where teams played in home and away format, Cook Islands Rugby Union has cut the 2019 competition short, bringing it down from 12 to eight weeks.
The weekly Club 15s kick off today with defending champions Tupapa Panthers hosting former giants Avatiu Eels at Victoria Park in the feature match of the round. In the other Senior A match, Arorangi Cowboys will take on Titikaveka Bulls at Raemaru Park. Takuvaine Reds are on bye this weekend.
Cook Islands Rugby Union competition coordinator Ben Koteka says a number of factors contributed to the decision to shorten the season.
In summary, Koteka said they will have eight week competition which will include one round of preliminary matches followed by three weeks of semi-finals and final.
“With the focus on Pacific Games and also the recent Constitution Celebrations, this year is a shortened eight weeks Rugby 15s competition format,” Koteka said.
The shortened season is expected to bring dismay to die-hard rugby union fans around the island but Koteka says it will improve the competition level.
“It still adds extra pressure on the teams with only one round to play every Saturday, so all game becomes important towards the points table.”
Apart from the Senior A grades, this year’s Club 15s will also feature age group teams competing in the Quick Rip Sevens and Tens formats.
“We will have U11s and U13s competing in the Quick Rip Sevens. There are four clubs, the Panthers, Reds, Cowboys and Eels competing in this,” Koteka said.
“The U16 and U19s will be playing in Town versus Country format for now. Yes, we are struggling for numbers but it should still be an exciting contest.”
Koteka says the club competition is still a key pillar of Cook Islands Rugby Union, adding their vision is to develop player pathways from home.
The competition will also assist in the build-up of the Cook Islands age grade representative teams for the U15 Condor Sevens, U18 World School Sevens and also the Oceania Sevens Qualifiers towards the latter part of this year.
Tupapa Field: 1pm Under 11s & 13s Quick Rip 7s: All Clubs Junior programme (Refs: Club Officials), 3pm Under 16s Rugby 10s: Town-Country (William Taripo, Assist. Ref: Club Officials), 4pmSenior A: Tupapa Panthers-Avatiu Eels – Game of the Week – (Refs: Holi Bob Kairua, Assist. Ref: William Taripo/Paul Allsworth. Sub Bench: Simiona Teiotu); Arorangi Field:
3pm Under 19s Rugby 10s Town-Country (Refs: Peter Godfrey, Assist. Ref: Club Officials), 4.10pm Senior A: Arorangi Cowboys-Titikaveka Bulls (Refs: Tua Ngaputa, Assist. Ref: Peter Godfrey/Paul Peyroux, Sub Bench: Sean Willis)