CRL LAUNCHES 2021 SEASON AT NGĀ PUNA WAI
After COVID-19 sidelined the event last year and caused huge delays to the club competitions, Monday night’s staging of the Canterbury Rugby League season launch at Ngā Puna Wai was symbolic of what everyone hopes will be a much smoother 2021.
CRL CEO Duane Fyfe and Chairperson Tony Kidd welcomed the gathering of club representatives and local rugby league identities, paying tribute to the stoicism and industriousness of the CRL community in helping deliver a meaningful season under duress in 2020.
The ongoing support of Canterbury Bulls sponsors New Era Glazing, junior grades sponsors Whitehead Plumbing & Gas, Premier Reserves sponsors ISC Teamwear, as well as valued supporters Signz, Gary Clarke Plastics and Trillo Metals – particularly during these challenging economic times – was also highlighted.
Meanwhile, Fyfe announced Canterbury Rugby League’s partnership with Bartercard New Zealand, who will be the naming rights sponsor for the 2021 CRL Men’s Premiership.
The women’s grade was the most adversely affected by the pandemic in terms of playing numbers, with the 2020 competition reduced to three clubs. But Fyfe revealed the 2021 CRL Women’s Premiership has been boosted to five teams: Burnham Chevaliers, Celebration Lions, Eastern Eagles, Sydenham Swans and Woolston Rams.
New Era Glazing Canterbury Bulls coach Andrew Auimatagi presented the Bartercard CRL Men’s Premiership captains to the crowd, Canterbury Women’s coach Tala Kele presented the CRL Women’s Premiership club representatives and CRL Development Officer Dom Tola presented players from each junior club.
The season launch also provided the opportunity to honour Linwood Keas skipper Alex Todd, who was named Canterbury Rugby League’s player of the decade in late-2020. Judged on by a panel consisting of the Bulls’ coaches during the decade – Brent Stuart, Mike Dorreen, Darrell Coad and Auimatagi – Todd claimed the award ahead of the likes of James Baxendale, Corey Lawrie, Kyle Leka and Shane Tamatea.
Fyfe and CRL President, former Kiwi Gary Clarke QSM, presented Todd with a framed, specially commissioned Canterbury Bulls-New Zealand Warriors jersey, including images from the Bulls’ 2019 match against the Warriors’ ISP team.
“Not letting my teammates down basically – when you see everyone working hard, it makes me want to work even harder,” Todd replied when asked the chief motivating factor behind his success, which includes three Mel Cooke Trophy wins as man-of-the-match in CRL Grand Finals.
Todd nominated the Bulls’ 2009 Bartercard Premiership triumph, which he featured in as a teenager, as the standout from a long list of team achievements he has been involved in during a glittering career.
“I can’t wait (for the season),” Northern Bulldogs head coach and CRL and NZRL Life Member Frank Endacott said.
“It was disrupted last year with COVID, but I thought Canterbury Rugby League did a good job to get us through to the finals, and we were pleased we got through to that stage.
“Hopefully it’s a COVID-free year and we can get every game in. We’re looking forward to a good season and a good finals series at the end of it.”
*All images courtesy of Matty Louis Photography