BOP Rugby exploring COVID-19 options during rugby season

By James Perry

With an uncertain future on what professional sport will look like in the common months, the grassroots also faces uncertainty. The Bay of Plenty Rugby Union (BOPRU) are looking at many ways the sport might look like when lockdown ends and rugby can resume.  

CEO Mike Rogers says until the lockdown restrictions are lifted, the true impact of Covid-19 on local sport won't fully known. With the regional unemployment rates likely to become higher, sports may not be a priority.

"So first and foremost I think our clubs are aware that our people and our communities are going to have other priorities. So we need to be respectful of those situations. But also we know the importance of sport in terms of health and wellbeing and connecting our communities," Rogers says.

The Bay Of Plenty Rugby Union is considering a range of options should current restrictions be lifted and community sports resume. However, with the Bay of Plenty covering multiple regions, should travel restrictions remain in place, a drastic change to their club competition would be on the cards. Changes could include the forgoing of the Baywide competition, and replaced instead with a return to zone competitions in Rotorua, Tauranga and the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

"We need to model a whole of options. With the restrictions or limitations that may be placed on us, we may need to deliver a different format of rugby so we've got to be open to that. If it has to be more regionalised initially, we don't think it's a bad thing, as long we've got rugby out there for our community and our clubs can operate 

Club Rugby is not the only thing BOPRU are focussing on this year.

Rogers says Steamers head coach Clayton McMillan has become 'fidgety' lately waiting to continue preparations for his sides Mitre 10 Cup campaign. Rogers says that began almost immediately after winning promotion to the Premiership in 2019. He says the players as well have been just as keen to take on the competition heavyweights like defending champions Tasman and Canterbury.

"Just talking to some of those players, they're hugely motivated again about getting the jersey back on for the bay and having a crack at some of those teams."

One thing that is causing excitement in the area and the union is the possibility that All Blacks may feature in the Mitre 10 Cup if international matches become impossible to play. Rogers says the players he has spoken to seem genuinely excited about should they get a rare chance to represent their home province.

"You would hope that would then translate to, you know, huge spectator interest and our supporters and our community wanting to be really engaged in our competitions to see the likes of, in our case Sam Cane and Nathan Harris, our recent All Blacks wearing the Steamers jersey again."

Mike Rogers advice to clubs and communities is to keep in touch with players and families. As they continue to wait for the season to begin and they can all hit the ground running when the restrictions allow them back on the field.