Player drain hits derby

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A player drain has affected the Wakatipu and Arrowtown Premiers rugby teams – clashing in a crucial derby this Saturday. 

About 14 Wakatipu players have upped sticks during this season, mainly because of better work opportunities elsewhere. Arrowtown lost 12 players between last season and this one. 

“The depletion of numbers has been incredible for both teams,” Wakatipu Premiers coach Kelvin Middleton says.
Seven of the 10 forwards he started the season with have left. 

“Two have gone home to Ireland, the other five had job opportunities in Australia and the North Island.
“They’ve been seven quality players we would be using week in, week out.” 

Middleton says he’s already on his third captain – “and he’s away in another week or two”. 

Wakatipu Rugby Club stalwart Brad Patterson adds: “If someone’s going to give you $150,000 to work in a Brisbane tunnel, as opposed to Queenstown – where work’s a bit tough – you can’t fault them. 

“It’s a cyclical thing – you’ve got Remarkables Park and Countdown coming on, suddenly they’ll attract more tradesmen back to Queenstown.” 

Arrowtown coach Simon Spark says he’s had shortages in some positions – two weeks ago, flanker/second-five Aidan Winter had to play prop and long-retired Ben O’Malley warmed the bench. 

“We’re going to have to work very hard between this season and next season to retain players with what’s happening in Christchurch [with post-quake rebuilding],” Spark says. 

“It’s a bit of a worry.” 

Meanwhile, both coaches say Saturday’s derby at the Queenstown Recreation Ground is crucial to them making the Central Otago competition semis. 

Wakatipu sits fifth after only two wins in five games. 

Arrowtown lie third in the competition but Spark says: “We’ve got to win, they’re the same.”