A new senior football season kicks off on Saturday with the first round of the Central Otago Football League knock-out cup.

Twelve teams have entered the 2022 competition despite playing numbers being affected by Covid-19, a busy horticultural and viticultural season and steep petrol prices.

Cromwell men’s coach Shane Norton has recognised this reality by hosting the knockout cup competition first and then starting the season proper at the end of April.

“Instead of having two divisions, we will have a full round-robin competition with home-and-away games, and finals.”

Teams from Queenstown, Wanaka, Cromwell, Alexandra and Teviot have entered the 2022 competition with a number of ex-international and ex-regional representatives in their ranks.

“I reckon that our top teams could easily compete in the Dunedin premier league, and probably win it. And it’s probably the most cosmopolitan comp in New Zealand with the range of nationalities competing.”

That includes, for the first time, a team composed entirely of Uruguayan nationals from Wanaka, a Brazilian team from Queenstown and an almost complete Vanuatu team from Alexandra.

Traditionally the Central Otago men’s competition has been independent of Football South (and Fifa).

There are now discussions under way that may see a closer alignment.

The popular Central competition has clearly proven itself and is stacked with good-quality teams and players.

The cup favourite will be the perennially strong Lakes combination from Queenstown.

Cromwell completed its pre-season games with a 6-1 defeat of Wanaka, the speedy Flynn Reyntjes scoring a hat-trick and Tom Day outstanding in goal.