Rugby: Embroiled in dispute

By Shane Hurndell

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Controversy will add some spice to the business end of Hawke's Bay's premier club rugby competition for the second time in two years this week.

Two years ago, Havelock North officials protested about Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports playing All Black fullback Israel Dagg in the Maddison Trophy final. After threatening to play the final under protest because Dagg had not played the minimum two competition games before the play-offs, and to take the matter to a Sport Arbitration Court hearing if Dagg played, the Havelock officials agreed to allow Dagg to play two nights before the final.

The All Black coach at the time, Graham Henry, wanted Dagg to play as part of his recovery from a thigh injury. Dagg set up what proved to be the winning try in his club side's 21-14 victory.

This week, in the build-up to the Maddison Trophy semifinals, Havelock North are being protested against. MAC Sports Association chairman Anthony Morley said yesterday his club has protested about Havelock North playing ineligible players in their 19-3 win against MAC on July 13.

The protest will be discussed at the Hawke's Bay Rugby Football Union's board meeting today and Morley is confident his team will be awarded the win, which will give MAC enough competition points to replace Taradale as the fourth qualifiers for this weekend's semifinals.

"We've organised trainings for Wednesday and Thursday, in anticipation of a ruling going in our favour," Morley said.

He says he has evidence which shows certain Havelock North players were not registered until 11.37pm on the Monday following his team's loss to Havelock North.

Co-club captain of the Havelock North club Gary Revell pointed out the lack of registrations were the result of a New Zealand Rugby Football Union data base problem.

"This isn't just Havelock North, it's a nationwide issue. Historically, Havelock North has been one of the leading clubs when it comes to registering junior and senior club players," Revell said.

Taradale coach Blair Cross said his team would be gutted if they had to give up their semifinal berth. "But I don't think it will come to that, in all honesty. If Havelock North played unregistered players in that game, they must have played unregistered players all season.

"This is an administrative issue and I believe the top four teams sorted themselves out on the field. I'll be shocked if anything changes to the order and we're training tomorrow and Thursday as planned," Cross said.

Union chairman Brendan Mahony said he is planning to make an announcement by 5pm today. "At our meeting we will consider a recommendation from our rugby directors before coming up with a way forward on this matter."

Club competitions manager Gary Macdonald sent out the weekend draw yesterday and there was no mention of the protest. The semifinal draw had top qualifiers Napier Technical hosting fourth qualifiers Taradale at Whitmore Park, and second qualifiers Havelock North hosting Napier Old Boys Marist at Anderson Park.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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