The 2018 Baywide club rugby competition kicks off across the Bay of Plenty tomorrow.
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union Operations Manager Neil Alton is excited about the 2018 Baywide Club Rugby Premier competition. The two 12-team divisions will revert to three eight-team competitions for the championship rounds.
"It is great to be able to kick off another year of rugby this weekend. The structure of the competition provides a meaningful first round for the 12 teams, but because there are only eight places in the second round the competition heats up as teams tussle for the premiership title come July," Alton said.
This year's Baywide club rugby competition is supported by Gilbert, who are the exclusive ball supplier for this year's competition. All premier clubs will receive a match day ball from Bay of Plenty Rugby.
Baywide Premier preview.
Ngongotaha v Arataki, Ngongotaha Domain
Ngongotaha moving into the Premier Division will have a stern first challenge facing 2017 Premier Two Champions Arataki. Both sides have returning coaches and will be encouraging their sides to kick the competition off with a positive performance.
Arataki head coach Billy Russell says their main focus is to perform week in, week out and make the top eight following the first round.
"We have a good mixture of young players and experience, with a collection of great developing players in Paea Lavaka, Bailey Williams and the Van Der Heyden brothers."
Arataki Coach: Billy Russell
Finish Position 2017: Winners of the Baywide Premier 2 Competition
Players coming into the side: Anthony Tuhoro, Lenoard Finau, Liam Van der Heyden, Bailey Williams, Levi Rahui, John Collier, Jacob Foster-Hall, Aiman Fariz, Huriwaka Brady.
Players not returning to the side: Reece Macdonald (Te Puna), Henry Stowers (Wellington)
Te Puna v Rotoiti, Maramatanga Park
Te Puna return under head coach Aidan Kuka and will prove a strong challenge for 2017 Baywide Premier 1 runners-up Rotoiti. Following a strong pre-season Te Puna secured the Gilly Bidois Trophy with a positive 33-20 victory over Rangataua and a comprehensive 49-5 win over Morrinsville.
However, Rotoiti too have posted strong pre-season results. Last weekend they retained the Tai Mitchell Shield with a 44-10 win over Ngongotaha, with previous wins over Kahukura and Waikite. Both sides will be looking to continue their winning form this weekend.
Te Puna head coach Aidan Kuka says they will take it stage by stage, with our first goal being to qualify for top eight.
"If we achieve that, we will be going all out to make that top four. We will work the rest out from then on. We have managed to retain the bulk of our squad from last year. We have picked up some experienced players that will add to the youth we already have. Te Aihe Toma will captain the side and Kaydin Budd will be his deputy. Reece Macdonald will add a steady figure to the backline and Zane Kapeli and Dan Baxter will take a no non-sense approach up front."
Rotoiti head coach Richie Francis says "after finishing as runners-up in last year's Baywide competition we have retained most of last year's squad".
"We have had a good pre-season with positive performances in the local Central Bay of Plenty banner round, which puts us in good stead for the 2018 competition."
Te Puna Coach: Aidan Kuka
Finish Position 2017: Seventh in Baywide Premier 1 Competition
Players coming into the side: Zane Kapeli, Reece Macdonald, Etonia Waqa, Jayjay Su'emai, Gordie Lloyd, Connor Woodman, Tana Tuhakaraina, Ryan Tuhakaraina, Sharman Johnson, Les McIlroy.
Players not returning to the side: Elijah Nicholas, Tavana Lutui
Tauranga Sports v Rangataua Sports, Te Ariki Park
Tauranga Sports under the new coaching team of head coach Euan Mackintosh and Culum Retallick face a stern challenge against longstanding rivals Rangataua. The Papaka will be under the new guidance of Nathan Olsen for the 2018 season.
Tauranga Sports will call on new talent Jeriah Mua, Leroy Carter and Emoni Narawa following the loss of experienced campaigner Keepa Mewett.
Rangataua have continued to develop since their historic win over Mount Maunganui Sports in 2016 for the Baywide Club Rugby Premier title. Following a close loss to their rivals Mount Maunganui Sports last weekend the Papaka will be looking to give their home crowd something to celebrate following the referee's final whistle.
"To date we have had great numbers to pre-season training. As a result we had a very encouraging pre-season hit outs against Hamilton Old Boys with two narrow defeats," Tauranga Sports head coach Euan Mackintosh said.
"Again we are happy to see some familiar faces from previous years. We have a number new additions which will boost both squads. We are sad to see Keepa Mewett leave us to pursue his professional rugby career in Japan, he will be a huge loss to us both on and off the field but we wish him all the best."
Rangataua Coach: Nathan Olsen (unavailable for comment)
Finish Position 2017: Third in the Baywide Premier 1 Competition
Tauranga Sports Coach: Euan Macintosh
Finish Position 2017: Sixth in Baywide Premier 1 Competition
Players coming into the side: Jeriah Mua, Leroy Carter and Emoni Narawa, Conor Fifita, Harley Fox, Marijn Huis, Koos de Haan and Tyrone Keith.
Players not returning to the side: Keepa Mewett (Japan)
Mount Maunganui Sports v Paroa, Blake Park
Defending Baywide Premier champions Mount Maunganui will see a new coach Reuben Parkinson at the helm this season. In their second challenge of the year the side will be looking to make it two from two following a 29-22 victory over Rangataua last weekend in their deferred match.
However, following a number of positive performances in 2017, Paroa will be hoping to upset the defending champions and post a victory to kick their season off under head coach Mike Smith.
Mount Maunganui' manager John Wok says the aim this season is to go back to back.
"The first thing for us is to make top eight, from there in the second round to make top four and then work from there into the finals. We will be working to progress and get better each game."
Paroa head coach Eddie Sykes says every year they try to be the best team within Eastern Bay of Plenty.
"Our other goal is to crack the illusive top eight which has eluded us over the last couple of years. We're a very young and small squad who will be creative in attack and defence and aim to bring a clear point of difference to other sides."
Mount Maunganui Coach: Reuben Parkinson
Finish Position 2017: Winners of the Baywide Premier 1 Competition
Players not returning to the side: Sabastian Siataga, Brett Ranga and Leigh Hughes
Greerton Marist v Te Puke Sports, Greerton Park
Greerton Marist host Te Puke Sports to kick off their season. Both sides will be taking the field under new coaches with Ryan Dunnett taking the reins for Greerton Marist and Matt Wallis for Te Puke Sports.
To add to the excitement there have been a number of player movements for both teams. Greerton Marist will be without experienced lock Troy Callander and the illusive Monty Ioane, but have retained a number of experienced individuals. Te Puke Sports have lost a nucleus of experienced players including Alex Thrupp, Hayden Anderson and Tim Bond. It will be a tough battle and will test both sides.
"We have had an interesting pre-season but I am happy with the progress and there have been some challenges but hey that's coaching," Greerton Marist head coach Ryan Dunnett said.
"Our first game is as it seems to be almost a traditional first round fixture against Te Puke Sports. It will be a tough encounter and it will show me and the team where we need to be. It can be anyone's to take but we need to start well."
Te Puke Sports head coach Matt Wallis says they have had some positive results across the board from pre-season games.
"Looking ahead to the season, we will be aiming for the top eight and then go from there. But it starts this weekend with Greerton Marist. They are always a competitive and determined side and it is likely they will be no different this weekend, but the Pirates will be up for the challenge."
Greerton Marist Coach: Ryan Dunnett
Finish Position 2017: Fifth in the Baywide Premier 1 Competition
Players not returning to the side: Monty Ioane (Italy), Troy Callander (Japan).
Te Puke Sports Coach: Matt Wallis
Finish Position 2017: Fourth in the Baywide Premier 1 Competition
Players not returning to the side: Alex Thrupp, Connor Woodman, Tim Bond, Hayden Anderson, Carlos Savage, Chulainn Sowerby, Curtis Dean and Graydon Scheres.
Baywide draws, Saturday
Premier 2.45pm, Development 1pm
Ngongotaha v Arataki at Ngongotaha Domain
Te Puna v Rotoiti at Maramatanga Park
Rangataua v Tauranga Sports at Te Ariki Park
Whakatane Marist v Whakarewarewa at Rugby Park
Mount Maunganui Sports v Paroa at Blake Park
Greerton Marist v Te Puke Sports at Greerton Park
Division One, 2.45pm
Papamoa v Ruatoki at Gordon Spratt Reserve
Waimana v Te Teko at Waimana Domain
Waikite v Marist St Michael's at Bellvue Road
Poroporo v Kahukura at Poroporo Domain
Opotiki v Murupara at Princess Street Reserve
Rangiuru v Judea at Centennial Park