CRL’S NGA PUNA WAI OPENER ON TRACK DESPITE RAIN DELAYS
Canterbury Rugby League’s eagerly anticipated February 23 debut at its new Nga Puna Wai home will go ahead as scheduled, despite the weather’s recent attempts to a throw a spanner in the works.
Twice the average rainfall in November threatened to derail the Rockcote Canterbury Bulls’ clash with the Warriors’ InTrust Super Premiership side, delaying the sowing of grass seed on Nga Puna Wai’s fields.
While the main field will not be ready in time, with a pre-Xmas downpour further hampering progress, Nga Puna Wai’s community fields will be available to stage the momentous occasion – which has now swelled to two matches thanks to the addition of a women’s fixture.
In another major coup for rugby league in our region, the Warriors Women’s coaching staff have requested a trial between two teams made up of South Island players, which will be played before the Bulls-Warriors match at Nga Puna Wai.
Linwood Keas and Canterbury star Sui Pauaraisa was the sole South Island-based player in the Warriors’ squad for the inaugural NRL Women’s Premiership this year (Papanui Tigers duo Charntay Poko and Corrina Whiley were close to a call-up but injury ruled them out of contention). Pauaraisa appeared in all four of the Warriors’ NRLW games before earning a Kiwi Ferns Test debut against the Jillaroos in October.
But the trial will give a host of the South Island’s top women’s players a chance to showcase their talents in front of the Warriors, which could potentially lead to a place in the club’s squad for the 2019 NRLW competition.
Meanwhile, the showdown with the Warriors reserve grade team provides the Andrew Auimatagi-coached Rockcote Bulls with a rare early-season hit-out. The Bulls agonisingly missed out on the NZRL National Premiership final on for-and-against for the third straight year in 2018 but unearthed several exciting newcomers.
The Warriors have qualified for the last six ISP finals series, while many of their fringe players will be using the Christchurch road trip as an opportunity to press for a place in the club’s NRL Round 1 squad just three weeks later.
The Nga Puna Wai opener is part of a jam-packed timetable before the CRL club competition gets underway in April. The 2019 rugby league calendar will again kick off with the Rolleston and Crosbie Nines tournaments, while the Manly Sea Eagles and Warriors descend on Christchurch for an NRL encounter at Rugby League Park on March 30.
Tickets for the historic rugby league event at Nga Puna Wai are $10, with children under five admitted free.
CANTERBURY RUGBY LEAGUE – NGA PUNA WAI OPENER
February 23, 2019 @ Nga Puna Wai Sports Hub, Wigram
-11:30am – Women’s trial match (Teams TBA)
-1.30pm – Rockcote Canterbury Bulls v Warriors ISP