GREYHOUNDS SEAL 2024 CRL PREMIERSHIP SPOT VIA TIGERS PARTNERSHIP
Papanui Tigers and Greymouth Greyhounds have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will see the clubs share players during the 2024-25 seasons, with the Greyhounds competing in the Canterbury Rugby League Men’s Premiership and the Tigers lining up in the Canterbury Cup Premier Reserves.
The MoU, executed on November 20, comes on the back of a motion carried by CRL affiliated clubs to change the senior men’s competition structure. All clubs fielding a Premier grade team will also be required to have a team in the Premier Reserves grade.
Greymouth enjoyed a strong campaign in the 2023 Canterbury Cup – finishing atop the ladder at the end of the regular season before losing its semi-final – while Papanui won the Division One title after making the difficult decision to withdraw from the Premiership. The MoU allows both clubs to fulfil their obligations under the new competition structure.
Under the terms of the MoU, the Greyhounds will be able to call upon players registered with the Tigers and vice versa, while the eventual goal of the arrangement is for both clubs to field standalone teams in both grades.
“It is exciting to have Greymouth Greyhounds included in the Canterbury Men’s Premiership,” Canterbury Rugby League CEO Malcolm Humm enthused.
“Their results in 2023 demonstrated they are on a strong performance trajectory and, combined with Papanui Tigers, the increase in senior men’s numbers provides a real pathway opportunity for both of these clubs and their players.
“Additionally, we believe this will provide a significant boost to rugby league on the West Coast. Canterbury Rugby League views this as our opportunity to support Southern Zone and the West Coast in growing the sport in a traditional rugby league heartland.”
The historic addition of the Greyhounds to the CRL Premiership – a first for a West Coast club – creates seven-team Massetti Cup and Canterbury Cup competitions for 2024.
Teams will play 12 regular season matches (two full rounds) ahead of the four-team finals series format, while discussions are underway to stage a pre-season knockout competition.
The Greyhounds’ six home games will consist of three each at Wingham Park in Greymouth and Papanui Domain.
“It’s really exciting for us – it’s going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge we’re going to take with open arms and give it our best shot,” West Coast Rugby League chairman Brad Tacon said.
“In 2017 we lost the senior (West Coast) comp, the Greyhounds were established in 2019 to keep the local guys playing footy – and we only had 17 players, so we’ve hung in there till this point and this is by far our most significant step and most exciting one.
“It will be really good for the game on the Coast to be able to play in a meaningful competition.”
Tacon also expressed West Coast Rugby League’s eagerness to simultaneously aid Papanui’s quest to eventually feature at Massetti Cup level again.
“We’re right behind supporting Papanui,” he affirmed.
“We know the struggles that clubs go through, we know when it seems like there’s no coming back – it seems like the world’s ended. But you rally round, you get good people around you and you make it happen.
“They want to get back into Premier football and we’re there to provide support to them, and likewise from their side, they’re there to help us grow the game on the Coast.”
The clubs are far from strangers – they had an MoU in 2022, whereby the Greyhounds effectively served as a Canterbury Cup affiliate for the Tigers, who were then still competing in the top flight.
“We’re really excited to team up with the Greyhounds, who have been playing really well to be at this level and deserve their opportunity as well,” Papanui Tigers president Grant Bond praised.
“The Greyhounds have already had a relationship with us from our previous MoU, so they knew what we were about and what we stood for.
“We were keen to get together and it’s all quite positive.”
As the Tigers’ rebuild continues, the chance to stage Massetti Cup matches at Papanui Domain and for the club’s top players to feature in the Premiership are immediate advantages of the agreement with the Greyhounds.
Forecasting further, the partnership shapes as a vital stepping stone to Papanui’s return to Premier grade status under its own steam.
“Playing premier football back at Papanui will be great, but it’s more about our players and teams competing at the highest level we can, and obviously to get back to a premier grade in our own right,” Bond adds.
“If we do it the right way it will give us more of a sustainable process rather than a ‘hanging on by the skin of our teeth’ type scenario.”
Greymouth’s elevation also means the Thacker Shield will be competed for between Premier clubs in 2024.
Reinvigorated as a challenge trophy this season, the Greyhounds ironically defeated the Tigers in a Canterbury Cup clash to take possession of the Thacker Shield, which they successfully defended in their remaining home games.
The Greyhounds will be required to put up the Thacker Shield at their home games next year, whether at Wingham Park or Papanui Domain.
Image credit: Kirsty Wilson Photography LPSNZ QPSA