A lack of rugby players willing to pull on their boots this season has forced some Central Otago clubs out of the latest premier draw.

The season, which kicked off on Saturday, has not started well for some clubs, including Clyde-Earnscleugh and Lawrence, which have not been able to field a premier team.

Otago Country Rugby chairman Bob Perriam said it was sad for those clubs and the sport in general.

“Cromwell [which has two teams] is filling the void from Clyde.

“They struggled last year with Cromwell propping up their numbers for them. They have been struggling for a while.”

The season also got off to a tough start for Matakanui, which had to default against Arrowtown on Saturday, due to a lack of players, mainly because of injury.

Matakanui Rugby Football Club president Andrew Paterson said the team, which has 21 players, would welcome more, particularly those willing to play in the backs.

He said a squad of 30 would be ideal.

The club has a van to transport players from as far away as Alexandra and Clyde .

Team members meet for a meal after training on Thursdays and players were also looking to put on a barbecue after training on Tuesday nights.

“Those clubs have not gone into recess. They just haven’t been able to field a premier team. – Otago Country Rugby chairman Bob Perriam

Perriam said one of the contributing factors making it difficult for teams to boost player numbers was the regulations that must be met within the 15 playing on the paddock and those on the bench at any one time.

He said teams now need to have a “big bank” of interchangeable reserves and a minimum of five fully trained front-rowers, which had added to the pressures.

That regulation follows moves to make the sport safer.

Another challenge rugby was up against was the fact some people were tempted to take part in other winter sports, particularly snow sports.

Perriam said the retention of school leavers was also “a real concern”, because there was no colts rugby in Central Otago.

Plans were mooted last year to fill that void with a colts side for the district, incorporating Upper Clutha, Cromwell and Alexandra.

However, it never eventuated because some of those players joined Clyde to ensure it could field a team last year, instead.

The option of a colts side could be reconsidered, Perriam said.

Although some clubs were not represented in the premier draw this season, and others had struggled for numbers, their clubs were “very much still alive”.

“Those clubs have not gone into recess. They just haven’t been able to field a premier team.

“Both [Clyde and Lawrence] still have junior rugby.”

Although the season has started, it was not too late if others still wanted to register, particularly senior players.

Perriam said although some clubs were struggling, others were not.

“Alexandra, they are looking stronger with good numbers . . . to make an improvement on last year’s performance.

Cromwell also has “big numbers”, which meant it was able to field two teams this year.

In other pleasing news for the sport, some of the clubs were improving their facilities, including Upper Clutha, which is upgrading its clubrooms, due to be opened in mid-May.

Arrowtown opened its new clubrooms about two months ago.

Otago Rugby has also announced the first Ranfurly Shield tournament will be held at the Wanaka Showgrounds on July 13.

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