It says much about the changing nature of society that rugby games have been scheduled for tonight and Good Friday with the old-fashioned Easter religious ordinance now seemingly a thing of the past.

The revamped Baywide Premier competition kicks off tonight with a clash under lights between Greerton Marist and Te Puna at Greerton Park at 6.45pm, followed by games tomorrow between Arataki and Mount Maunganui at Grenada Park, Rangataua Sports and Te Puke Sports at Te Ariki Park and an Eastern Bay showdown between Paroa v Whakatane Marist at Lawson Park.

On Saturday afternoon, Mount Maunganui Sports start with a trek to Opotiki and Whakarewarewa take on Rotoiti at Puarenga Park in the Rotorua derby.

This season is a case of going back to the future.


The Baywide Premier grades will revert back to a system popular in the past that enables greater movement between the divisions and hopefully delivers meaningful matches right through to the finals set down for August 6.

What is known by older club stalwarts as the "three eights" means the 12 Premier teams and 12 Division 1 teams will split into three divisions of eight teams after the initial qualifying round to determine the rankings. Round one is to be completed by June 4 with round 2 to end on July 23.

The divisions will be called Premier 1, Premier 2 and Division 1 with automatic promotion/relegation between the grades. Clubs must field a development side to be eligible for the two Premier divisions.

The ideal outcome of this is teams who have often struggled to foot it with the big boys in Premier grade have a chance - if they are good enough - to gain promotion that will rekindle enthusiasm and recruitment in those clubs.

It also means there can now be no slacking off towards the end of the season for Premier teams outside the top four play-offs as they have relegation to avoid.

A meaningful competition that encourages competitive games right until the end of the season is the ideal goal of every union in New Zealand.

It is certainly worth clubs giving 100 per cent support to see if it does produce a higher standard across the wider Bay of Plenty region. The bottom line must be that a stronger and more competitive club competition will help to create a better Steamers team.

The re-introduction of a Baywide colts and under-85kg grade this season is another positive move and important to stop the loss of school leavers from the game.