Tony Lewis, Tasman Rugby Union CEO. Photo: Shuttersport.

Tasman boss hopes for rugby return in 2020

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Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Tony Lewis is confident community and NPC rugby will be played in 2020.

Although all sport in New Zealand has been locked down for a month, moving into at least two more weeks of level three constraint, the Tasman boss says indications, at this stage anyway, point to the possibility of play resuming within the next few months.

in the piece Tasman announced that all representative rugby, including the Red Devils, Griffins and Tasman B and under-19 programmes, were cancelled.

However rugby at junior, age group, school and senior club levels was very much on the cards.

“We are extremely positive that there will be community rugby this year,” said Tony.

“We would like to think that the senior club competition could start sometime in June … and that age group and JAB would start in term three [which begins on July 20], but we are governed by exactly what the Government tells us to do.

“Looking at what has been happening over the last three or four weeks we think that could be a possibility.”

Tony said Tasman had received no indication from NZ Rugby as to starting times, the local union merely monitoring proceedings carefully.

“We have just been watching carefully, communicating with our clubs where we sit and trying to work out what is best for this region.

“From our perspective it is highly unlikely that there is going to be any sport in schools in term two … it just doesn’t seem possible. So we are looking at and planning, with fingers crossed, seeing JAB and age group rugby back in term three.”

Tony said Tasman were working with schools and clubs to come up with a workable competition and team structure for when lower grade rugby resumed, but said nothing had been decided yet.

The union were taking a “fluid approach” to the on-going situation, adapting plans as they go along, with the goal of getting back onto the field very much in mind.

“We have been watching the levels carefully … every day has been positive since we went to level four, the Government has done a good job. We will stay with our plan, there is a draw sorted out for division one and two, with a date in mind, but if that doesn’t work we will keep on moving it.

“I would imagine the senior competition would run into a bit of the August-September window to get it completed, which would be good because the Mitre 10 Cup players who are not playing in that competition will be able to play club rugby.”

If that happened, Tony envisaged a scenario where a senior club match could be played as a curtain-raiser to a Mitre 10 Cup match. He suggested that members of the Mako squad not required on game day, or returning from injury, would likely slot into club sides, making for some exciting possibilities.

Tasman made an early move to cancel rep rugby, below Mitre 10 Cup and Farah Palmer Cup level in 2020, deciding to concentrate on JAB, age group and club play.

“Community rugby was our focus,” emphasised Tony, “and the Mitre 10 and Farah Palmer Cup [competitions] would take place when the levels had been lifted. We are always confident that there will be some play in those competitions, in some format, at some time this year.”

As with most businesses, the biggest issue for Tasman is a drop in revenue.

Television rights are the biggest earner, making a return to NPC competition essential to help maintain the coffers.

The speed with which players get back onto the field after they resume full contact training will vary, suggests Tony.

“At an All Black and Super level they believe they need three weeks of contact work before they can start playing … at a senior club rugby level they would probably get away with two [weeks].”

Tony said Tasman rugby staff, had all agreed to take a 20 percent pay cut during the lockdown.