NZ Rugby shares the blame for poach­ing scan­dal

The Northern Advocate - - Sport - Adam Pearse

For those in the know, it was the worst-kept se­cret in rugby. Schools with cash to burn were look­ing out­side their school, their city and even their coun­try to find the next 1st XV rugby su­per­star.

As sec­ondary school rugby’s pro­file in New Zealand has blos­somed and the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits have be­come clear, high-pro­file schools would spare no ex­pense to gain any kind of up­per-hand they could over the rest of the com­pe­ti­tion, di­lut­ing the sanc­tity of rugby com­pe­ti­tion in this coun­try.

And New Zealand Rugby stood by and did noth­ing.

While the likes of Saint Kentigern’s Col­lege and Kings Col­lege have copped most of the flak, the game’s govern­ing body needs to take a hard look in the mirror. You may think it’s un­fair to put NZ Rugby in the spot­light but it must have known about the sus­pect be­hav­iour from a num­ber of schools and sim­ply let it hap­pen.

The only other op­tion is that it didn’t know any­thing about it which would sug­gest even larger signs of in­com­pe­tence which would re­quire ex­ten­sive re­view. The truth of it is, this scan­dal falls di­rectly in the lap of Steve Tew and com­pany who failed to act be­fore things reached the tip­ping point.

They rep­re­sent the game on a na­tional scale and there­fore have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure the game’s value of com­pe­ti­tion at any level whether it be the top flight or pri­mary school rippa.

In terms of the schools them­selves, I don’t hold much sym­pa­thy for ei­ther St Kents or the other Auck­land schools. Make no mis­take, the rea­son St Kents have been sin­gled out is be­cause they played the game bet­ter than the rest and it has only at­tracted sig­nif­i­cant at­ten­tion be­cause now the Auck­land schools have fi­nally ac­cepted that they lost.

You can’t tell me if the shoe was on the other foot and Auck­land Gram­mar had the funds to dom­i­nate the high school rugby scene, they wouldn’t be the ones stay­ing mum on this whole poach­ing or­deal. An ide­ol­ogy of ruth­less poach­ing has per­verted the game at a sec­ondary school level and St Kents seem to have made peace with that and run with it.

It’s the smaller schools with nat­u­rally tal­ented play­ers who are get­ting stolen in their fi­nal years who I feel sorry for. They have been cry­ing out for years for in­ter­ven­tion and only through our most pop­u­lar 1st XV com­pe­ti­tion has this been blown open.

"The game’s govern­ing body needs to take a hard look in the mirror.

As for the drivel be­ing trot­ted out about how St Kents are the ones ru­in­ing the spirit of the game, it’s to­tal hypocrisy and some­thing that ev­ery­one can see through. It is a tech­nique used across all sports of­ten masked un­der the term “re­cruit­ment” and driven al­most solely by money. That’s at the heart of it all, at the end of the day.

With games be­ing shown on tele­vi­sion, it presents a huge fi­nan­cial op­por­tu­nity for schools that do well on the na­tional stage. When sport gets to that level, the gen­tle­manly as­pect quickly dis­solves to be re­placed with the need to win and the ben­e­fits that fol­low. But the sick­en­ing byprod­uct of this scan­dal is the ef­fect it has on the play­ers.

These are teenagers who are of­fered the chance of a life­time - some­thing that could be the start of a glit­ter­ing ca­reer in the na­tional game - and have now been re­duced to pawns in a game played by ti­tle­hun­gry acad­emy coaches and as­set-mea­sur­ing prin­ci­pals that want to sit back and say to their ad­ver­saries ‘My rugby squad is big­ger than yours’. If NZ Rugby won’t take charge, these schools need to take it upon them­selves to act in ac­cor­dance with the val­ues they teach.

PHOTO / PHO­TO­SPORT

St Kentigerns Col­lege is in the eye of the storm but there are wider is­sues in play.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.