Sports correspondent & historian
Sideline Sid can't wait for the wet and cold of winter. Fueling his longing is the business end of the BOPRU Baywide premier rugby competition.
While the nine Western Bay of Plenty and three Rotorua sides have kicked off the season title chase on the hard and fast fields of late autumn - June and July will bring a hard slog to make the top four at the end of the regular season.
When the temperatures drop and the big coats and woolly hats dominate the sidelines, I know that the results of the big match-ups will decide the genuine title contenders.
Sitting at the top of pile after the first three rounds of the title race, is Whakarewarewa who call Pueranga Park in the Sulphur City, home. While they have piled on the points on the way to defeating Rotoiti, Arataki and Rangiuru, it can be argued that they haven't faced a really stern challenge in their three encounters.
However sitting in the wings are big guns of Western Bay of Plenty rugby. The initial big match-up came in round two, when defending titleholders Tauranga Sports paid a visit to Blake Park, to square off with Mount Maunganui.
A new look Mount side took the game to the nine-time Baywide champions from the opening whistle. The Green and Gold brigade led 17-13 at the break, before posting a further 16 points to take out a hard fought 33-25 win.
Western Bay of Plenty have ruled the Baywide roost since 2006, when Whakarewarewa were the last Rotorua or Eastern Bay side to lift the Baywide trophy aloft in triumph.
It hasn't always been a Western Bay of Plenty domination of the Baywide big dance since Waikite won the inaugural Bay wide crown in 1990. When Tauranga Sports laid down their Baywide credentials with their first title in 1999, just Mount Maunganui in 1993, split the early Rotorua and Eastern Bay grip on the trophy.
Entering round four, Whaka and Mount Maunganui sit in the top two with unbeaten starts, while Greerton Marist and Te Puke Sports who battled to a 20 all draw last Saturday, round out the top four.
Te Puna who seems to have made an art-form of picking up bonus points and Tauranga Sports lurk just of the top four. Rangiuru, Rangataua, Judea, Arataki, Rotoiti and Ngongotaha look destined to play for seeding positions for next season’s competition.
The big encounters are coming thick and fast, with Mount Maunganui at home to Te Puke Sports on the May 28. Then the Mount back up against Whakarewarewa the following weekend. Tauranga Sports journey to play Te Puke Pirates and Te Puke verses Whaka, should be worth a cold weather sideline visit in the Western Bay of Plenty.
There is plenty of pulsating Baywide action to come during the depths of winter, with the likely scenario of just Whakaarewarewa standing in the way of another Western Bay of Plenty Sub-Union team name, being engraved on the Baywide premier trophy.