NZ Rugby recently announced the completion of an independent review that aimed to better understand college rugby.
The review was commissioned from educational consultancy EdSol NZ last June in light of dropping participation numbers. In 2016 North Harbour had 2448 teens playing rugby. Last year this had dropped to 2021.
NZ Rugby finds this worrying, particularly when you factor in population growth and the growth of the women’s game.
The review was a fact-finding mission, which was also looking for ideas about how to create a successful model to rebuild secondary school rugby.
Consultation took place with students, Provincial Union and club rugby staff, secondary school staff and principals, interest groups and the public.
The resulting report, approved by the NZ Rugby Board at its meeting last December, contains 31 key recommendations.
A message consistently reinforced by stakeholders was the lack of an overarching governance body for secondary school rugby. The report finds that the current organisational structure for secondary school rugby is disjointed, with key decisions made on an ad hoc basis with no alignment to a national or even regional strategy.
The report goes on to say that establishing a strong vision, values, and a coherent strategy is essential.
Secondary school rugby needs to have someone in charge, it needs policies and mechanisms to ensure all stakeholders work together towards a common goal, and it needs a longer-term plan.
The priorities that NZ Rugby plans to implement over the next 12-15 months are: recruit a manager of secondary school rugby, review secondary school rugby governance, develop a secondary school rugby strategy, implement priority recommendations for girls’ rugby, review the Rugby Administrators In Schools funding model and investigate the expansion of the E Tu Rangatahi programme for Māori players.