The 2018 Women’s club rugby season kicks off this Saturday with a Gala Day at Ngati Toa Domain.
Eight of the nine Women’s teams entered into this year’s competition will be in action, with defending champions Oriental-Rongotai having the opening weekend bye.
The four games being played on opening day are: Paremata-Plimmerton v Hutt Old Boys Marist, Poneke v Avalon, Old Boys University v Marist St Pat’s and Northern United v Petone. All matches kick-off at 11.30am.
Look out for a full draw announcement later this week on this channel.
The Gala Day will also serve as an information and meeting day for all the teams and for the women’s rugby community. Wellington Pride Head Coach Ross Bond will be joined by Black Ferns Assistant Coach Wesley Clarke.
There will be an after-match for all teams, where Bond will outline the Pride programme and explain what lies ahead for 2018. Clarke will also speak about this year’s Black Ferns programme and promote the opportunities for players and what expectations the Black Ferns are looking for at the next level.
Saturday’s opener is the first of nine consecutive scheduled rounds in the first round to decide the winner.
The teams will then be divided into two divisions, with a top five-bottom four split, to contest the Championship rounds, followed by semi-finals and the finals on the same weekend as the men’s final in early August.
There will be a weekend off at the conclusion of the first round that concludes on 9 June and the start of the second on 23 June, when a Wellington Pride trial will be held. Following this, a wider training group will be selected and will work together throughout June and July. The final Pride squad will be named at the conclusion of the club rugby season and pre-season representative fixtures will be in place before the start of the Farah Palmer Cup in September.
There will also be backs and forwards position specific trainings throughout April and May.
Coach Bond has emphasised that it is a big year for Wellington women’s rugby and for the Pride as they look to gain promotion back to the Premiership division. Fitness and individual skillsets as well as a positive on and off field attitude are key areas.
As well as the full draw, look out for an announcement later this week around the renaming of the women’s trophies, giving the first round and the two second round trophies a direct relationship and relevance to the women’s game. These will replace the traditional Fleurs Trophy (first round) and Victoria Tavern Trophy (second round) silverware.
There is also the Challenge Cup, which runs like the Ranfurly Shield and the men’s club rugby Bill Brien Challenge Cup and is put on the line by holders at home matches. Oriental-Rongotai are the current holders of this.
Last year Ories swept to both the first round and second round women’s Division one titles, scoring 705 points in 14 games and conceding 109. Individually, Ayesha Leti-L’iga scored 25 tries in 12 games.
In the second round, they won all eight round-robin matches and then beat Marist St Pat’s 38-5 in the semi-final and Old Boys University 63-8 in the final with Leti-L’iga scoring a hat-trick.
Petone won the Division 2 competition with an unbeaten second round, beating another new team in 2017, Paremata-Plimmerton, 36-27 in the final.