Rugby: Hard grounds will be side stepped

By Shane Hurndell

Fears rock-hard grounds caused by drought-like weather conditions may force a delayed start to the Hawke's Bay club rugby season have been alleviated.

While other provinces including Wairarapa are considering delayed starts, the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union's club competitions manager, Gary Macdonald, said yesterday everything was on track for the Bay's club season to begin on March 30 as scheduled.

"At the same time rain would be nice ... no question," Macdonald said.

Traditionally, Flaxmere's Ron Giorgi Park, Havelock North's Anderson Park and Bill Mathewson Park in Hastings have been the hardest and driest at the start of each season. However Macdonald said all three were in good condition thanks to good co-operation between the union, the Hastings District Council and clubs.

"Ron Giorgi is being watered and because Anderson Park and Bill Mathewson Park aren't being trained on they will be a lot better than in previous seasons when the season kicks off," Macdonald said.

The Havelock North and Tamatea clubs, which train and play at Anderson Park and Bill Mathewson Park respectively, have been training at Windsor Park in Hastings to avoid damaging their grounds.

"These clubs have been good and realise they will benefit further into the season. Most clubs have already had pre-season fixtures and I haven't heard of any concerns about grounds," Macdonald said.

Hawke's Bay Secondary Schools rugby drawmaster Karl Jones said the drought-like conditions were unlikely to impact on any of his organisation's fixtures by the time their season started on May 11, a week later than in previous seasons because of the scheduling of the school holidays.

"Hastings Boys' High School and Lindisfarne College have their own bores and their grounds are looking pretty good," Jones said.

"I understand some schools' 1st XVs will be playing before the holidays and have been irrigating their grounds accordingly. Hard grounds aren't going to be an issue."

Junior inter-city competitions begin on April 13 and officials are confident the majority of grounds used will be in good order. Many clubs have junior squads training already.

As was the case last year, Elwood Park in Hastings is in the best order thanks to new irrigation and drainage systems. This park has been extremely well nurtured in the buildup to the Savile Cup national polo tournament in January and this week's Horse of the Year Show.

As Jones quipped: "I think Elwood Park has got more grass than the rest of the province combined."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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