Bartercard Cup: It keeps getting better! The same teams are back, the format remains and the standard just keeps getting better. Season four of the Bartercard Cup kicks-off on the 12th of April 2003 with the Grand Final set for the weekend of the 12th � 14th of September at Ericsson Stadium.
Defending Champions, Mt Albert Lions who moved through the regular competition with only one loss to take out the championship, look to defend their title. Bartercard Cup coach of the year John Ackland is without stars Lee Finnerty and David Myles having both moved offshore.
Brian McLennan returns as co-coach with incumbent Tony Benson for the second time at the Raiders. This formula was successful in securing the championship in 2001 and the team and management are aiming for the same heights this season.
North of the bridge will now see Northcote renamed as the North Harbour Tigers. The due of stalwarts Ken McIntosh and Karl Benson head the Tigers and are eager to hit the ground running having had a tough preseason match against the Manurewa Marlins.
The Marlins have former Kiwi Kelly Shelford at the helm following the departure of former Warriors staffer Trevor Clark. This opportunity for Shelford has come off the back of a successful season with Auckland Rugby League�s Papakura Club.
A number of young players stepped up from the Lion Foundation NJC to claim spots in the Marist Richmond Brothers. The rise of Evarn Tuimavave and Jerome Ropati were testament to the pathway created. Senior players Jamie Cook and Paul Ah Kuoi will be missed having moving on and hanging up the boots respectively.
2001 Marlins coach Trevor McLeod takes the Otahuhu Leopards Head Coach role following a year long break. Pre-season training has seen the return of core team members including former Canberra Raiders and Warriors winger Odell Manuel.
Wellington�s management have undergone a positive transformation as part of the districts restructure. The coaching staff remains solid under the guidance of the experienced Gerard Stokes. Wellington will be better for Gerard�s experience gained through the 2002 international programme.
The Glenora Bears and Eastern Tornadoes have maintained their core from last season with minor changes in the administration of both. The Tornadoes will be playing their home matches out of Ericsson No 2.
Taranaki Wildcats are looking to build on their inaugural season as are the Central Falcons under the tutelage of last years assistant Peter Sixtus. Sixtus was formerly in charge of the Lion Red Cup�s Manawatu Mustangs.
The Canterbury Bulls have led into this season with a testing encounter against the Cronulla Sharks. Take two of last season has seen the Bulls prove that they have made significant steps in rebuilding for an assault on the 2003 title.
Match dates and times will be allocated in line with those issued by the NRL for its Telstra Premiership. This is due to the on-going support from Sky Sport with coverage of key Bartercard Cup matches leading up to the Ericsson Stadium Grand Final.
Bartercard Cup Coaches for 2003:
Tony Benson/Brian McLennan (Hibiscus Coast Raiders), Karl Benson/Ken McIntosh (North Harbour Tigers), Bernie Perenara (Marist Richmond Brothers), John Ackland (Mt Albert Lions), Dean Hunter (Glenora Bears), James Leuluai (Eastern Tornadoes), Trevor McLeod (Otahuhu Leopards), Kelly Shelford (Manurewa Marlins), Alan Jackson (Taranaki Wildcats), Peter Sixtus (Central Falcons), Gerard Stokes (Wellington), Phil Prescott (Canterbury Bulls)