Boys the big losers in boy­cott

The Dominion Post - - Opinion -

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.

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