Arrowtown Rugby Club player numbers have been hammered by the building industry downturn.
The club’s Premiers kick off their season on Saturday minus 12 players from last season, when they reached the Central Otago final.
“We’re really struggling,” assistant coach Hayden Finch says.
“Last year we had 40 at training and were thinking we’d have two teams, but at the moment we’re getting between 12 and 15.”
Finch is in no doubt the team’s been hurt by the downtown in the construction sector.
“We’ve also got two frontrowers working out of town during the week which makes it tough for the trainings.”
Arrowtown’s biggest loss is goal-kicking first-five/fullback Reece Winter, also an Otago Country rep. He’s shifted to Melbourne.
“He’s played pretty much every game for the last four years. He’s a massive loss for Arrowtown, on and off the field,” Finch says.
Balancing the losses, Finch says Arrowtown will field a similar forward pack to last season.
“It’s a chance for some younger players, who’ll get plenty of game time.”
Arrowtown’s first game is a defence of the White Horse Cup – Central Otago rugby’s Ranfurly Shield.
Arrowtown play Crom-well, who they wrested the cup off in their last round-robin game last season.
Unlike Arrowtown, Wakatipu’s playing ranks haven’t been too depleted though key Premiers backs – Mike McKeown, Bradley Cross and Tom Kelly – have jobs across the Tasman.
“We’ve been getting 30 to 40 at trainings, some weeks 20-odd,” Premiers co-coach Tom Bamber says.
Wanderers coach Grant Murphy says his ranks are a bit thinner and he’d still welcome more players.