Boys the big losers in boycott
High schools love their mottos. Decades after leaving, a former student can often recall the invariably Latin mission statement, if not the maths, science or English studies that propelled them into their careers.
Old boys and girls of Auckland’s St Kentigern College will remember Fides Servanda Est: The faith must be kept. That’s a little ironic, given it is the target of a potential boycott by schools in Auckland and around the country over claims it is ‘‘poaching’’ players to bolster its already powerful first XV.
St Kents claims it is doing nothing wrong, which appears to be technically correct. But the other schools believe it has systematically, cynically, failed to keep the faith with unwritten rules and traditions.
A little further south is Hamilton Boys’ High School, one of the most successful school rugby sides of the past decade. Its motto is Sapiens fortunam fingit sibi: A wise man carves his own fortune. The two colleges are great rivals and their mottos highlight the great challenge for the development of school rugby and the young charges on their campuses.
Keeping the faith speaks to the honouring of tradition and values central to school life and our great national sport; a young man carving his own fortune suggests that a person should be free to find their own path, utilising the skills they have developed in whichever way they see fit. Reverence for a wider set of commonly held beliefs and values, as opposed to the advancement of the individual.
As is so often the case, this is not a clear, binary debate; there is plenty of grey to muddy the strident black-and-white arguments from all sides.
Poaching is nothing new, particularly in Auckland’s premier school rugby competition; there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that it goes on in other regions and sports as well, and has for decades. But St Kents appears to have taken it to an almost industrial level, and is unapologetic about its motives.
It must be remembered that at the centre of all this are young men and their families, who are being offered opportunities, both sporting and academic, that might not exist in the places from where they are plucked.
That suggests even more challenges for regions already struggling with fewer services and the constant drift of families and resources to the bigger centres.
The development of Super Rugby has solidified power around urban-based franchises, to the detriment of many proud rugby regions. The growth of elite sporting schools, with their professional programmes and scholarships, appears to be a natural consequence of that trend.
But a boycott could set a dangerous precedent. Its greatest impact is likely to be on the young men, whose only crime appears to be the desire to play for their schools and advance their career prospects.
Worse still, such a campaign could lead to new rules that hinder the movement of talented young men, that unfairly favour those deemed lucky enough to live in a particular postcode.
We urge all sides to think carefully, to find a compromise that keeps the faith but allows everyone choice and the opportunity to carve their own path.
That would be the wise thing to do.
Poaching is nothing new... But St Kents appears to have taken it to an almost industrial level.