Premier and Premier Reserve teams gearing up for start of season


A long, hot Wellington summer is all but over and the start of the 2018 Premier and Premier Reserve season is almost upon us.

The action starts this coming Saturday at Awakairangi and Maoribank Parks with the first round of Swindale Shield and Harper Lock Shield matches. 

Both competitions span 13 rounds over the next 12 weeks, with a midweek Anzac Day round again this year as well. 

A number of interclub trophies will be on the line over the next three months, some steeped in history, others bearing the names of famous players or well-respected rugby identities. Some new ones will be played for the first time in 2018 too, such as the Anthony Waldrom Trophy this weekend between Avalon and Wainuiomata. These will be profiled as they are contested.

All other grades start up in the coming weeks, including the Colts Paris Memorial Trophy and Women’s Victoria Tavern Trophy.

In the Premier Swindale Shield, seven teams this year will be jostling to make the coveted Jubilee Cup second round championship, while the bottom seven will play for the Hardham Cup. The second round Ed Chaney Cup follows the Harper Lock Shield from June-August.

As such teams will want to hit the ground running in the Swindale Shield, with the race for the ‘top seven’ expected to heat up early. 

As always, a number of new players will make their debuts in the Premier Swindale Shield this year, with a group of players fresh out of their school first XVs or having transferred from other provinces . A small contingent of new overseas players from England, Australia, South Africa, Japan, Wales and elsewhere will be in the mix, so expect some of these players to make their marks on our competition. 

Similarly, new coaching staffs are on board at many clubs, these changes all adding to the dynamic of the competition. 

Look out for a published list of all clubs ‘gains and losses’ in the coming days and for the first teams of the year being named at the end of this week. 

Managing injuries and depth in squads will be an issue as the season goes deeper.


A look at the 14 Premier clubs follows (in order of their second round finishing last year) follows:

Old Boys University

2017 Swindale Shield:  Champions

2017 second round: Jubilee Cup champions 

Last year’s champions in both competitions will be the team to beat again this year. With many old heads returning and a steady stream of university players joining their ranks, OBU will be hard to top. Starting the season off as the Bill Brien Challenge Shield holders too. 


Hutt Old Boys Marist

2017 Swindale Shield: third equal

2017 second round: beaten finalists

The HOBM Eagles dropped their first two games last year but recovered to finish third equal in the Swindale and made the final of the Jubilee Cup. A core group of senior players still around despite some losses, including last year’s outstanding prop at this level, Joe ‘Apikotoa. Home ground the Hutt Rec unavailable until round six so they can get some wins under their wings early they could be a force to be reckoned with later on. 


Marist St Pat’s

2017 Swindale Shield: sixth

2017 second round: beaten semi-finalists

The most successful Jubilee Cup club in the modern era, but most recent second round championship success was in 2012. A perennial contender in Wellington club rugby and always strong, especially at home at Evans Bay Park. Some high profile losses though, in flanker Isaac O’Connor, hooker Valentine Meachen and wing Mike Buckley, so how their replacements step up could determine the fate of the ‘Red Machine’ in 2018. 



2017 Swindale Shield: seventh

2017 second round: beaten semi-finalists

Last outing was a 22-50 loss to Old Boys University in last year’s semi-final. A less than stellar year by their own recent high standards in 2017 but this season could be their year again.  Leading group of players returning, including a strong front row cast, and stellar coaching team that features Rodney So’oialo, joining his brothers Steve (coaching) and James (playing) at the Lydhurst Park club. Won nine matches in last year’s Swindale Shield but few bonus points saw them finish seventh – this year’s cut-off line.


Northern United

2017 Swindale Shield: third equal

2017 second round: fifth in the Jubilee Cup

Four Jubilee Cups between 2004-2010 before dropping away. Showed signs of a revival last season and this year tipped by many to continue their ascent. A number of exciting players and some new faces such as Wellington Lions recruit and flanker Du’Plessis kirifi and St Pat’s Silverstream midfielder Kienan Higgins make Norths one of this year’s teams to beat. Jerry Collins Stadium the best ground in Wellington so could be lit up once more. 



2017 Swindale Shield: second

2017 Jubilee Cup: sixth

In 2017 Oriental-Rongotai made the Jubilee Cup round for the 10th straight year. Small club, but big heart – will the 2011 champions Ories continue their consistent record and even win their maiden Swindale Shield and second Jubilee Cup? Prop and co-coach Whetu Henry again a big cog in the wheel of the Miramar contenders this year. 



2017 Swindale Shield: seventh

2018 Jubilee Cup: eighth

The loss of seveal first choice players to retirement, unavailability or overseas (at least for the first part of the season) poses a challenge for Wainuiomata this year. Will look to rebuild around a core group of experienced players. Hard to beat at home at William Jones Park though, only Ories and OBU winning there in 2017. 



2017 Swindale Shield: eighth

2017 Jubilee Cup eighth

Fell away markedly at the end of last season to be winless in the Jubilee Cup, after showing positive signs of being a club on the rise following several underwhelming seasons. The nucleus of a strong team to keep improving in 2018 and if young players can step up they will challenge. Successful year for the Petone club as a whole last year saw them win four titles in other grades. 


Upper Hutt Rams

2017 Swindale Shield: 10th

2017 second round: Hardham Cup champions 

Started and finished last year strongly, but dropped off the pace badly in between. Scored 71 tries (next most 43) to canter to the Hardham Cup title, but the Jubilee Cup is what their large supporter base wants. Talisman captain Hayden Schrijvers (injury) gone for the season, but if others can stay fit and their forwards muscle up the Rams could be a real threat and Maidstone Park could become a fortress.



2017 Swindale Shield: 12th

2017 Hardham Cup: second

Success is long overdue at Helston Park. Could this year be the one the Hawks finally turn the corner? Loss of captain Anthony Pettett to MSP offset by the return of a core group of players to wear the blue hoops this season. Won just two of 13 Swindale games last year, but found form and confidence in the Hardham Cup. With loyal supporters and large catchment area, poised to make a move and it could be in 2018. 



2017 Swindale Shield: ninth

2017 Hardham Cup: third

Like the Rams, Poneke showed glimpses of a return to their best form in 2017, but too inconsistent and depth sorely tested at times. Ended last year with a 14-71 to the Rams so looking for a clean slate in 2018. Wellington’s second oldest club could have it with new coaching duo Mason Lawrence and Roy Kinikinilau and new Te Toitu base at Kilbirnie Park.



2017 Swindale Shield: 11th

2017 Hardham Cup 6th

The only way is up in 2018 for the Wellington Axemen, who made the Jubilee Cup in 2016 for the first time in 20 years only to go backwards last season. Several departures and injuries meant the Axemen were on their heels throughout most of the year. Will the recent passing of club legend Graham Williams inspire them? 



2017 Swindale Shield 13th

2017 Hardham Cup 7th

Like the Axemen, the Avalon Wolves were on the back foot all season last term, with a horror injury toll not helping their cause. A proud club with several promising players and a physical presence, the Wolves can turn this around. New coach Scott Waldrom will ensure their competitiveness too, while the return of his brother Thomas later in the year to Fraser Park HQ should spur them on more.



2017 Swindale Shield 14th

2017 Hardham Cup 8th

The battling Ngatitoa Domain club won one game all season (beating Avalon 40-5 in the Hardham Cup) and lost several by plenty in 2017.  Just 36 tries in 23 matches and porous defence made it a tough campaign. But with the nucleus of last year’s side returning under experienced coach Phil Gibb, including well-performed first five-eighth Blake Neve, the McMillan-Parata brothers and up and coming lock Taisson Lealaisalanoa they will have a side that could surprise in 2018.