Saturday heralds the start of the 2024 Canterbury Rugby League season proper, with the CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Men’s Premiership, ISC Canterbury Cup Premier Reserves, Division One and Presidents competitions all getting underway.

The opening round of the CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Men’s Premiership is headlined by Greymouth Greyhounds’ debut in Canterbury Rugby League’s top flight, hosting Halswell Hornets at Wingham Park in a match that doubles as a Thacker Shield defence for the West Coasters.

Meanwhile, CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Men’s Pre-season Competition winners Riccarton Knights square off against Hornby Panthers at Crosbie Park and defending champions Linwood Keas line up in a derby against Eastern Eagles at Linwood Park in the other Round 1 premier fixtures.

Supporters don’t have to wait long for the always hotly anticipated grand final rematch – Hornby and Linwood, opponents in seven of the last eight Pat Smith Trophy deciders, lock horns in Round 2 at Leslie Park. Halswell and Riccarton meet in a repeat of the pre-season final that weekend, and Greymouth makes the trek over to face Eastern.


The 2024 CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Men’s Premiership will run for 14 rounds as teams vie for the Massetti Cup, while another key feature of the season is the introduction of the requirement of all premier clubs to also field a team in the ISC Canterbury Cup – meaning three double-headers at Canterbury Rugby League’s suburban venues every Saturday.

Papanui Tigers are the Greyhounds’ ISC Canterbury Cup affiliate after the clubs signed an MoU in late-2023; the Tigers will face the Hornets’ premier reserves team in Greymouth this Saturday. The partnership will entail three home double-headers at Wingham Park and four at Papanui Domain this season.

For the second time, Ngā Puna Wai will host a ‘Magic Round’, with all three CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Men’s Premiership matches on Saturday, April 20th – Greymouth Greyhounds v Linwood Keas (3pm), Riccarton Knights v Eastern Eagles (5pm) and Halswell Hornets v Hornby Panthers (7pm) – to be played consecutively on the venue’s main rugby league field.

The ISC Canterbury Cup matches that weekend will be played at the home teams’ respective grounds, all kicking off at 12.30pm, giving the entire Canterbury Rugby League community the opportunity to get down to Ngā Puna Wai and support what shapes as another special occasion for our local game.


There’s two other CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Men’s Premiership matches scheduled for Ngā Puna Wai: a Friday night clash between Halswell Hornets and Eastern Eagles on June 7th, and a showdown between Eastern Eagles and Greymouth Greyhounds on Saturday, July 6th.

The nine-team Division One competition will feature Addington Magpies, Ashburton Barbarians, Burnham Chevaliers, Halswell Hornets, Northern Bulldogs, Papanui Tigers, Riccarton Knights, Shirley Hawks and Woolston Rams. This season marks a return to Division One for the Magpies for the first time since 2018.

Riccarton’s Club Day on April 18th will see the Knights take on the Hornets in all three grades at Crosbie Park.

“The Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Pre-season Competition came up with some interesting results, and those results have me super excited about what the season ahead is going to look,” CRL Competition & Operations Manager Jordan Chand said.

“It is probably the first time in a long time that there is no clear favourite to at least be participating on Grand Final Day. This year I think any team on their day can tip up the other. Games where the Thacker Shield is on the line also add another element rather than just the two points.”

“We’re also pleased to be able to integrate a Magic Round into the draw, although it will look a little different to last year where we had teams playing at the same time on three fields. This year we will be going NRL-style and have our teams playing back-to-back-to-back on our number one field at Ngā Puna Wai.”

The 2024 CRL Women’s Premiership kicks off on May 5th, taking up its usual Sunday afternoon timeslot.

Two-time defending premiers Linwood Keas, 2022-23 runners-up Sydenham Swans, Woolston Rams, Eastern Eagles and Burnham Chevaliers will be joined this year by Addington Magpies and Hornby Panthers in a seven-team competition – a reflection of the growth in women’s rugby league in Canterbury and the commitment of the region’s clubs to grow that area of the game.

“I am thrilled to see two new teams come into the women’s grade this year,” Chand added.

“The newcomers, Addington and Hornby, have done an outstanding job recruiting new and returning club and representative players, while not taking away from the other teams’ depth.”


There will be no matches on the King’s Birthday and Matariki holiday weekends, while the home-and-away season for all three men’s grades wraps up on July 20th.

After a week’s break, the three-week finals series concludes with CRL Grand Final Day at Ngā Puna Wai on Sunday, August 11th – the sixth to be staged at the home of Canterbury Rugby League. A bumper schedule will again feature the CRL Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Men’s Premiership grand final, the Pat Smith Trophy Challenge, and the CRL Women’s Premiership, ISC Canterbury Cup and Division One deciders.

Canterbury Rugby League Men's Grand Final 2022 between Hornby Panther v Linwood Keas 14/08/22
Photographer: Matthew Musson/MattyLouisPhotography
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