The Bartercard Cup 2004 couldn�t ask for a better start then what has happen so far this year. Four franchise changes to the this years competition sees Taranaki Wildcats gone after two seasons of struggling; the Manurewa Marlins have been absorbed by a realignment with the Eastern Tornadoes. The Ellerslie club shifting to merge with Otahuhu; and two new sides enter the cup, Counties Manukau Jetz side and WAICOA Bay Stallions. The competition goes into its fifth season on a far better financial footing than has been the case, with the New Zealand Community Trust agreeing to put in around $650,000 from pokie money to cover airfares, medical and other costs. Plus ten games will be screened live on Sky TV this year, including the final, things couldn�t get any better�.right?
The new boys of the Batercard Cup have got off to a flying start, with both Counties Manukau Jetz and WAICOA Bay Stallions both recording stunning victories.
On Friday night at Papakura�s Walter Massey Park, The Jetz caused a major upset by defeating defending champions Canterbury Bulls. Watched by a good sized crowd, the Jets put on an excellent display of football stunning the 2003 champions 28-14. Tries to Finnerty, Karaitiana, Falogo, Herangi and Motu helped the Jetz carry on to win the match after leading 14-10 at halftime. Following this up was WAICOA Bay Stallions, who coached by Kiwi rugby league legend Tawera Nikua , downed the North Harbour Tigers in a thrilling match 26-24 at Davies Park, Huntly. A last minute try to the Stallions gave them a win in their first Bartercard Cup match, and with the amount of talent in their local comp, expect the Stallions to be a force in their debut season. Backed by players such Aoterangi Herangi, and Lance Hohaia, and a large following of support, this team has the potential to go along way this year.
In other matches played yesterday, The Glenora Bears learnt a valuable lesson that good goal kicking wins matches, after going down 38-22 to the Easter Tornadoes at Ericsson Stadium. The Tornadoes scored seven tries and kicked 5 goals to the Bears one. Warriors squad member Herewini Rangi made good yardage up the middle and looked sharp at the dummy half for the Tornadoes, picking one try and 5 goals. Both sides put in some massive defence in a first half characterised by poor finishing, but the Tornadoes bigger pack laid the foundation for a good win after leading 18-12 at halftime.
Central Falcons got off to a poor start getting thrashed 60-10 by Marist Richardmond Brothers in front their home crowd in Palmerston North. Hat-tricks by Ricky Henry and Glen Rota, plus two tries to Warriors squad member Marcus Perenara gave the 2003 runners-up a perfect start to the season as Marist never looked like losing after leading 24-0 at halftime.
Today the new look Otahuhu Ellerslie franchise, coached by former Kiwi James Leuluai faces the Hibiscus Coast Radiers at Ericsson No.2 kick-off is at 2.30pm. No result has come through from last nights match between Wellington and Mt Albert Lions at Porirua Stadium.
With the Warriors poor start to the season, many of the younger players are already putting their hand up to be selected. Many of the Warriors squad members are have already played in NRL trail matches this year and should be given the opportunity to step for the Warriors.
The Bartercard Cup is a major stepping stone for any league player In New Zealand, eleven players involved with the 2002 or 2003 NZ 'A' tour sides selected from Bartercard competition have since been signed to NRL clubs, including last year's winning captain and Bulls hooker Shane Beyers (Wests), wing George Carmont (Knights), David Fa'alogo (Souths), Fui Fui Moi Moi (Eels), Hale Va'asa (Cowboys) and Tevita Latu and Epalahame Lauaki (Warriors).
There will again be a Bartercard selection involved in international football, a mid-July game against a Queensland Cup side in Brisbane in the offing. There will also be places for Bartercard players as well as NRL players in the NZ 'A' side to meet England 'A' tourists here. The NZRL also has an offer from the United States for a three-way tournament between the US, Fiji and a Bartercard selection in Hawaii but is unsure if that can be accommodated time-wise, as well as financially
The existing franchises have a two-season deal to the end of next season. But the NZRL has already put the clubs on notice that it wants a better geographical spread and fewer clubs in Auckland by 2006. The North Shore, Hibiscus Coast and Northcote have been told only one licence will be allocated from next year because the league does not believe there are sufficient juniors to support two teams in the area. Hibiscus, who do the most recruiting from the outside, have been encouraged to talk about merging with backers of a Northland team. In central-west, Auckland Mt Albert and the Marist-Richmond Brothers face the same deal, only one licence to be given for that area from 2006. And South Auckland will have two, rather than three, so further adjustment is necessary there. Plus with the with Otago Rugby League growing in numbers and more clubs playing the game, it proves the game is growing in all areas of the country. And there is no doubt in the future that Otago Rugby League should push forward for a team in the Batercard Cup.
Warrior Bartercard Cup allocations
Canterbury Bulls - Kane Ferris and Richard Villasanti.
Counties Manukau - Henry Fa'afili.
Eastern and Manukau Tornadoes - Matt Jobson, Justin Murphy, Herewini Rangi. Glenora Bears - Sione Faumuina, Epalahame Lauaki.
Hibiscus Coast Raiders - Tony Martin, Iafeta Paleaaesina, Karl Temata, Shannon Stowers.
Marist Richmond Brothers - Tevita Latu, Francis Meli, Jerome Ropati, Marcus Perenara.
Mt Albert Lions - Vinnie Anderson, Mark Tookey.
North Harbour Tigers - Louis Anderson, Brent Webb.
Waicoa Bay Stallions - Aoterangi Herangi, Lance Hohaia, Wairangi Koopu.
Wellington - Vince Mellars.
Not tagged to run in the competition are skipper Monty Betham, Awen Guttenbeil, Stacey Jones, Ali Lauitiiti, Jerry Seuseu, Danny Sullivan, P. J. Marsh and Clinton Toopi.
Counties Manukau Jetz 28 L Finnerty, J Karaitiana, S Falogo, A Herangi, C Mout tries, A Herangi 4 goals.
Canterbury Bulls 14 C Fraser 2, A Aumatangi treis, M Clarkson goal.
Eastern Manukau Tornadoes 38 N Ngametua 2, M Latu 2, T Hewitt, H Rangi, D Harriman tries, H Rangi 5 goals.
Gelnora Bears 22 C Nahu 2, C Nadie, G lio, S Ieremia tries, K Alefosio goal.
WAICOA Bay Stallions 26 V Moana-Manson, H Wilson, H Karena, J David, B Tawera tries, H Karena 3 goals
North Harbour Tigers 24 G McPherson, D Wasua, D Trott, D Moses tries, D Troot 4 goals.
Marist Richmond Brothers 60 R Henry 3, G Rota 3, M Perenara 2, T Ropati, K Guttenbeil, S Sika tries M Perenara 8 goals.
Central Falcons 10 N Ngaru, M Whakatihi tries, L Erihe goal.