With Baywide men's rugby split into sub-unions this year, there is plenty of local pride to play for every time teams take to the field. When it comes to the Central Bay of Plenty Premier competition, it has been all red and black so far. David Beck reports.
Eight rounds in to the Central Bay of Plenty Premier rugby competition, the big question is: how do you stop Whakarewarewa?
The men in red and black have shown why they have represented Rotorua in the Baywide Premier 1 division in recent years as they have swept every obstacle in their path.
Whakarewarewa have won eight games from eight, scoring 325 points in the process and conceding just 40.
Head coach Jeremy Hikuroa, who stepped into the role this season, said the players had made his job easier by being self-motivated.
"It's been good, I think the boys have enjoyed having a local round where they can play against their cousins and their whānau. Those local rivalries definitely bring a bit more to the game and it's good to coach.
"It's been easy to get the boys up for it when it's a local rivalry. I think the main thing is that they're self-driven, they have a good leadership group."
If any extra motivation was required, Whakarewarewa hold two prestigious taonga, the Tai Mitchell Shield and the Rotorua Banner. These are up for grabs every time they play another Central Bay of Plenty team so the format of this year's competition means one slip up would hand them over to the opposition.
There are two rounds of pool play left, in which Whakarewarewa play Waikite and Ngongotahā, before the top two teams face off in a straight final.
Whakarewarewa cannot be caught at the top of the table but the battle to play them in the final is heating up with Ngongotahā and Rotoiti both sitting on five wins and 20 competition points.
Hikuroa said the final would be "huge". Coming from North Harbour, he said the rugby in Rotorua was a reminder of how things used to be.
"I love it. It's reminded me of what club rugby used to be 10 years ago, it's good to see there's still the pride of club and the fact that a lot of whānau are involved in the clubs is awesome.
"The number of volunteers around - I can't believe how many people put their hands up just to get things done and help the boys."
He said this season's format had given the team an opportunity to focus on themselves and their own development and was confident they would be ready for a return to Baywide competition when that became an option again.
"It's been a chance to really focus on ourselves and try to hone in on what we need to be doing as a club, without having to worry about the rest of the Baywide."
This weekend Whakarewarewa host Waikite, Ngongotahā host Marist St Michael's and Kahukura travel to Rotoiti.
Repeat or Redemption?
Over in the Western Bay of Plenty, it is finals time.
The Premier Men's final will be a repeat of last year's Baywide decider as Tauranga Sports host Te Puna.
Last year Te Puna came out on top, producing a clean sweep of titles in the Premier, Premier Development and Senior Reserve grades.
However, it would take a brave punter to pick a winner in this year's final as it is Tauranga who have been the team to beat so far with seven wins from seven games before beating Rangiuru 29-20 in the semifinal last weekend.
Te Puna finished third on the table before beating Te Puke 27-22 in their semifinal.