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Back in 1976 the top four sub union rugby teams played a round robin early in the season. This concept was interesting and the supporters loved to watch it. Otautau who had won the 1975 Western competition withdrew and said that it should be played at the end of the season when teams have gelled and are fitter. Riverton, being runner up grabbed the opportunity.
Unfortunately this competition has a lot of weaknesses and it had showed the previous season when Star was allowed to play in the series because it won the President's cup.
Invercargill with winning the Galbraith Shield in 1975 had the right to play in the series and with Evan McLellan, Trevor Keelty and Peter Hildyard holding the three quarter line, Invercargill were favourites.
Inside them Gary Muir a pacy, skilful first five, and John Eddy and Graham Sutherland added strength to the backs.
Kevin Duke, Roger Ramage, Murray Leach, "Slim" Low, Glen Smith and Brent Lamond made up the forward pack.
Brian Beardsley who had led Invercargill admirably in the past did not think he would be back playing this year.
Edendale met Invercargill in the first game, and last year it had three Southland representatives in the way of midfield backs; Russell Hardie and Dave McKinnell, with prop come No. 8, Don Hay.
Des Herbert played for Edendale that year and he contributed a lot to the team with his knowledge and skill of the game.
Bruce McDonald, a fast and gutsy loose forward and Gordon Lee another valuable gain who can finish off good work that is done by the backline.
In the main game Balfour met Riverton, and unfortunately for Balfour they did not have the services of Ken Stewart, an All Black. But they did have a lot of talented footballers, and one of them was Andy Dickson, a representative loose forward.
Riverton had always played well in the series but found itself losing to Star in the two previous years. It was favoured to get into the final again with the likes of Murray Heath and Alistair Murray. The Riverton team around this era had great team spirit which made it hard for opposition to cope with.
Reference: The Southland Times March 1976
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