Wellington Rugby today published the Swindale (Premier) and Harper Lock Shield (Premier Reserve) draws for the 2017 season (below).
Following a thorough consultation process, clubs voted on a number of changes to the competition including:
Swindale/Harper Lock Shield Competitions (Premier First Round)
- Full 13 game round robin.
- One week earlier start to the season (Saturday 18 March).
- One round on ANZAC Day in the afternoon.
Jubilee & Hardham Cup Competitions (Premier Second Round)
- Jubilee Cup format remains unchanged.
- Hardham Cup reduced from eight to six teams
- Hardham Cup to be contested by premier teams only.
- Hardham Cup teams to play each other home and away over ten weeks.
- No Hardham Cup semi-finals or final.
Ed Chaney Cup & HD Morgan Memorial Trophy (Premier Reserve Second Round)
- The Ed Chaney Cup will be contested by the Premier Reserve teams from the eight clubs who qualified for the Jubilee Cup.
- The HD Morgan Memorial Trophy will be contested by the Premier Reserve teams from the six clubs contesting the Hardham Cup.
WRFU Rugby Board Chairman Peter Scott said these changes would create a much closer and fairer competition.
"The new format will avoid the difficulties created when Premier and Premier Reserve teams from the same club have been drawn to play in different locations, particularly during the Jubilee and Hardham Cup rounds."
"By aligning the Premier and Premier Reserve teams throughout the entire season we believe these teams will work more closely than ever."
"It will also help clubs draw more patrons to their clubrooms on Saturday afternoons with the Premier Reserve teams playing curtain raisers to the main game. The WRFU believes strongly in fostering rugby as a means to draw together local communities to our clubs and will endeavour to also align Colts matches with their club's Premier teams where possible."
The Premier season will kick off on Saturday, March 18 with a Gala Day played across seven fields, five at Awakairangi Park and two at Maoribank Park. It will mark the first time Awakairangi Park, in Upper Hutt, has hosted senior rugby.
- Gala Day - Saturday 18 March at Awakairangi Park and Maoribank Park.
- Easter - Saturday April 15 (week five) - All matches to be played on Easter Saturday
- ANZAC Weekend - Tuesday 25 April (week seven) -WRFU Derby Day! Interclub rivalry at its best.
- Jubilee & Hardham Cup Starts - Saturday 10 June
- Jubilee Cup Final - Weekend of 5/6 August
- Hardham Cup Final Round - Saturday 12 August