Wakatipu in behind neighbours as Arrowtown prepare for home invasion.
The Arrowtown Bulls rugby side has support from an unlikely quarter for their Central Otago championship final against Upper Clutha on Saturday.
Wakatipu players, gutted at losing their home semi to Upper Clutha last weekend, will rally behind arch-rival Arrowtown, says Wakatipu’s technical adviser and former Highlander, Kelvin Middleton.
“They’re going to be very supportive at the weekend and we’re wishing Arrowtown all the best.”
Middleton is picking a comfortable win for Arrowtown, who won the Central Otago title last year and will again defend the White Horse Cup this weekend.
“They are just a better all-round team – they play basic footy with some fine finishing.”
Arrowtown club president Simon Spark, surprised not to be facing Wakatipu, is asking supporters to wear red on Saturday – there’s a $50 prize for the best-dressed fan. “The snow’s good but Jack Reid Park will be better,” Spark says.
He’s “confident” of a win but is wary of Upper Clutha. “They never come to Arrowtown and play poorly.”
Fullback Hayden Finch recalls how Upper Clutha broke Arrowtown’s 10-game winning streak in Wanaka a month ago.
“They gave us a hell of a hurry-up and beat us easily. They’re very physical, they just tackle, tackle, tackle.
“We’d like to have played Wakatipu and beaten them but Upper Clutha will be tough. But we’ve got home support and we’re hitting our straps at the right time.”
Arrowtown’s second half last Saturday – when they put on 33 unanswered points against Alexandra after being 0-0 at halftime – was “absolutely fantastic”, Finch says.
Upper Clutha halfback Kieran Turnbull says his side lifts for away matches against Arrowtown. “We’ve probably been a bit of a bogey team of theirs.
“It will be tough going to Arrowtown and playing in that tight little arena, but we’ve beaten them at home and beaten Wakatipu in Queenstown so we believe we can do the job.”
Turnbull says it’s extra motivation having the cup at stake in a final for the first time – but he believes it should only be contested for round-robin games.
Spark remains unapologetic for trying to transfer two players out of deadline to bolster his injury-ravaged Bulls last Saturday.
The Otago County board rejected the request but on appeal the Otago union gave Arrowtown dispensation to play second-five Drew Carmody, who recently moved to town.
Spark says Arrowtown haven’t got a B team to fall back on and had come close to defaulting in their last round-robin game.
Upper Clutha also applied for a transfer but was turned down by Otago Country – they didn’t appeal.
The Wanaka club was initially upset at the transfer but calmed down after learning Carmody now lived in Arrowtown, Turnbull says.
- The Otago Country squad for a North Island tour next month includes Arrowtown’s Winter brothers Aidan and Reece, Daniel Dodds and Daniel Iosefo plus Wakatipu’s Ben Blakely and Tom Kelly.