Bulls' name may be scrapped in rejig

By TONY SMITH - The Press

The Canterbury Bulls could be defending their national representative rugby league title in a different guise this season.

The Bulls may become the Southern Zone after a New Zealand Rugby League decision to replace the Bartercard provincial premiership with a tournament for zonal teams.

Seven zones – Northern, Auckland, Counties-Manukau, Upper Central, Mid-Central, Wellington and Southern – will take part in three grades, 15s, 17s and premiers, in the new National Zone competition.

The Press understands the Canterbury Rugby Football League would like to see the Bulls brand name – the best-known in New Zealand domestic rugby league circles – retained. But a final decision will be made by the new Southern Zone board which meets on Sunday.

The Southern Zone would be punting 10 years of tradition if they decide to discard the Bulls' brand name.

The Canterbury Bulls won the inaugural Bartercard Cup title in 2000 and took the title again in 2003. They were also beaten finalists twice before the season-long competition was mothballed after the 2007 season.

Former Kiwis prop Brent Stuart coached the Bulls to the new provincial premiership final in 2009, beating Auckland in Christchurch.

Some players from outside Christchurch – most notably from Tasman and the West Coast – have played for the Bulls' premier grade team and age-group sides.

The NZRL yesterday called for nominations for selectors, coaches and team management positions for the seven zonal sides.

"Through this selection process, we aim to find the very best players wherever they are playing and regardless of whether their team is the strongest performer or not," NZRL football manager Tony Kemp said. "The same also applies to coaches, managers and trainers.

"We want to find the best people regardless of the strength of their district."

Chief executive Jim Doyle said the NZRL was committed to developing "transparent pathways for all players and management staff to progress from grassroots through to high performance.

"This new competition ... will allow us to do that," Doyle said.

"We believe this is a positive innovation for the game."

Premier players will be eligible for a New Zealand Residents team to compete in a yet-to-be-confirmed end-of-season international fixture.

Kemp said the "very best coach, manager, and trainer from the competition" would be selected for Residents game and the best 15s and 17s players would be named in "national merit teams".

PRESS POLL: Should the Canterbury Bulls' name be retained? Email sport@press.co.nz


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