2019 School Rugby



  • St Kents kicked out of top rugby competition after boycott threat

    The ethical quagmire that is schoolboy rugby has been further muddied with Auckland powerhouse St Kentigern College being excluded from next year's Auckland 1A First XV competition.
    
    The stunning turn of events has seen a coalition of schools agree to boycott playing St Kents because of their recruitment policy that has been deemed morally and ethically reprehensible by rival schools.
    
    The fee-paying independent school admitted to recruiting five senior elite players from rival 1st XVs to bolster their squad for 2019.
    
    The Herald understands King's College, another independent fee-paying school, was also put on notice but they have agreed to enact changes to their rugby programme.
    
    "It's a serious issue and it needed a serious response," Mount Albert Grammar School principal Patrick Drumm said. "We needed to take a strong leadership stand as a recruitment strategy like this is not what school sport should be about.
    
    "The integrity and credibility of the competition is challenged by targeting elite players from around the country. We felt the time was right to try to have a moral and ethical discussion and while we had a positive meeting with King's that wasn't the case with St Kents."
    
    The rival principals wrote to Head of St Kentigern College David Hodge on three occasions on November 5, November 26 and as recently as Monday. On each occasion they have been disappointed with the response.
    
    The initial letters invited St Kents to bind themselves to new principles and codes around the recruitment of talent. The last letter was more strident.
    
    "The 10 schools who have led the conversations with you are now of the view that they have given you fair opportunity to respond," the letter states. "It is the immediate decision of each of our schools that in 2019 our 1st XV rugby teams will not now compete against St Kentigern College."
    
    Hodge was contacted for comment but was not available for immediate comment.
    
    The position of the 10 Auckland schools has been broadly supported across the country.
    
    Napier Boys' High School principal Matthew Bertram said what St Kents had been doing was "brazen" and unprecedented and the Super 8 schools he was chair of supported the move.
    
    Napier BHS, who made the final of the national champs this year, have seen their halfback "recruited" by St Kents for next season and although it was disappointing, Bertram said the issue was wider than that.
    
    "They'll [St Kents] just say the family approached them," Bertram said. "That's their party line."
    
    Bertram said that put families in the awkward position of having to lie to maintain the party line and to not burn bridges.
    
    "It's a seductive opportunity. I understand that," Bertram said of the opportunity to board at a private school, "but if they say the educational opportunity is manifestly superior, i have evidence to the contrary."
    
    Bertram said private schools like St Kents were tilting the playing field and going against what building a programme should look like.
    
    'They're not building from the ground up, from year nine to 11. They're going after the superstars and it's brazen."
    
    St Kents were stunned last year when, after emerging through the first phase of the 1A competition undefeated and firm favourites to be crowned champions for the third time in four years, they were defeated at home by St Peter's College in the last minute.
    
    Their aggressive and unprecedented recruitment drive in the last few months is seen by the other 1A schools as a direct response to their failure to win the 2018 title.
    
    There are College Sport, who administer school sport in Auckland, bylaws that restrict schools in the 1A competition from excessive poaching within the wider Auckland region. But St Kent's have circumnavigated these rules by recruiting from outside the Auckland region and have offered full scholarships to established 1st XV players from Rotorua Boys' High School, Napier BHS, Whangarei BHS, Massey High and St John's in Hamilton.
    
    The non-private schools in the Auckland 1A competition have been increasingly concerned about the integrity and credibility of the competition being eroded and at a meeting late last month the 1A schools agreed on a new set of guiding principles.
    
    At the heart of the new document was a proposal to extend the current rules to apply nationwide. That would mean schools in the 1A can't field more than two players in their team who played for another First XV anywhere in New Zealand.
    
    Those new players would also have to stand down for six games in their first year at the new school and would be ineligible to play in the knock-out rounds of the competition.
    
    St Kentigern refused to sign the new document. King's have signed the guiding principles document but have not agreed to boycott playing St Kents.
    
    Drumm says the 1A door remains open to St Kent's, but only if they are willing to reach some kind of agreement.
    
    New Zealand Rugby this year announced a wide-ranging review into secondary school rugby, with many believing it is a self-serving power-grab to take control of the 1st competitions away from principals.
    
    Whatever the motives, statistics have seen a precipitous drop in participation levels, even with the rapid rise of female participation.
    
    One of the common refrains is that secondary schools have become professionalised and only those kids with a potential pathway in the game receive any encouragement to keep playing.
    
    There is another awkward element to this for the national body: for all the talk of rugby being a great egalitarian pursuit, on one level they like the fact that schools with fat sports budgets can do some of the high-performance heavy lifting for them and can turn out professional-rugby ready talent.
    
    Regardless of where NZR falls on the St Kents issue, there is a growing belief change has to happen and it has to happen quickly.
    
    One secondary school source spoken to who didn't want to go on the record in case it looked like a case of sour grapes, said the situation had gotten out of control. Some provincial state schools, he said, had started sending staff to the intermediate school AIMS games in a futile bid to run interference between the scouts of the big independent schools and the talented kids that would normally fall in their catchment zone.
    
    When you are using already limited resources in that way, the source said, you know the system is damaged.
    
    Another source who had worked in both the professional and amateur arms of the game for more than two decades said schoolboy rugby had developed "a corrupt mindset" that was filtering through to the kids.
    
    "In 10 years' time we're going to be dealing with the fallout from this," the coach said. "Those ideals of putting your hand up, not out, getting what you earn, they're all going. Instead we're developing mercenaries who say, 'What's in it for me?'
    
    "This is far bigger than New Zealand schools rugby at the moment… we're implementing and endorsing a system that's corrupting the game by selling its soul."
    


  • Good to read that the other 1A schools have taken a stand.

    It would be interesting to know who the other 4 players are.



  • @bovidae said in 2019 School Rugby:

    Good to read that the other 1A schools have taken a stand.

    Hypocritical of a bunch some of them to take a stand though.



  • @nepia There is obviously a degree of self-preservation.

    St Kents and King's are the worst offenders of getting players from outside of Auckland. And if your chequebook is bigger...



  • @bovidae said in 2019 School Rugby:

    @nepia There is obviously a degree of self-preservation.

    St Kents and King's are the worst offenders of getting players from outside of Auckland. And if your chequebook is bigger...

    Yeah, and Kings was a signatory to this - maybe they are sneakier in that they grab the talented U15 players just before they hot 1st XV level?



  • @nepia That's a risk tho, they've still got to develop them to 1st XV

    I'd be interested to see who the WBHS boy was.



  • @nepia Like the Sullivan brothers?

    King's have agreed to change their recruitment policies so are likely on probation.



  • @bovidae said in 2019 School Rugby:

    @nepia Like the Sullivan brothers?

    King's have agreed to change their recruitment policies so are likely on probation.

    Jonah Lowe - sending up the @Stargazer bat signal. 😉



  • @machpants I just asked a guy at work who's son played WBHS 1st 15 this year and he mentioned a couple of names as possibles.

    Pretty sure an exceptionally talented young fella up here had a good deal to go to a top Auckland school (not St Kents) this year, but he is only form 3 this year (year whatever)



  • You'd think the real answer is to have NZ Rugby put in place some sensible rules that are consistent across the country. Hopefully that's what comes out of this NZ Rugby schoolboy rugby review.



  • @nepia Didn't see Kings among the signatures?



  • @tim Article on NZH mentions they will abide by the new guidelines but refused to boycott ST K games - thus their sig not on the letters



  • @tim said in 2019 School Rugby:

    @nepia Didn't see Kings among the signatures?

    Dolt, my bad I have to take everything I said back - I could have sworn I say Kings there when I first read it. 🤦🏾♂



  • They have been saying this for years around schools and poaching. The issue in NZ is the rules and the inconsistency of the application of the rules.
    I have been involved in a couple of clangers were schools (outside AKLD) have basically lawyer-ed up and the rugby unions have backed down as has been mentioned in the article.
    Again not many of the big schools can say they do not bend the rules, even though they say it publicly (Not necessarily recruiting form other firstXVs).
    This has been a build up of miss-management and offloading for decades from a number of organisations from Auckland schools sport (In this case), NZSSC, Local and senior rugby unions all not singing from the same sheet.



  • I just saw that a Boy from my old school, Onewhero Area School in the Wop Wops of the Counties province is attending the Chiefs Under 17's camp. He will get approached for a scholarship no doubt. Any decent player from there has moved to Wesley.



  • Great to see the schools taking a stand. Traditional powerhouses like Kelston and De La Salle might actually have a chance to compete again.





  • NZR is trying to get pro rugby players, so for them getting good players into rich schools which run a very pro style 1st XV is a bonus. Principals look at it from a teaching/schooling perspective. Fee paying private schools look at it from a business perspective. Unsurprisingly they disagree what's 'best'



  • The comments on the Stuff article are interesting. Similar fingers pointed at Scots in the Wellington region, for example.





  • @tim said in 2019 School Rugby:

    @nepia Didn't see Kings among the signatures?

    From the article I posted:

    St Kentigern refused to sign the new document. King's have signed the guiding principles document but have not agreed to boycott playing St Kents.
    


  • they interviewed St. Kents Principal on RS about 5.10pm today...claims were that they are doing what other schools are, just better.

    Says they dont go actively seeking people, but kids and thier parents go to them wanting to school there, and if they look like a good fit and able to , they can look at sponsorship with only a finitte number of scholarships available.

    He quoted a letter from NZR saying they liked what they were offering kids both on and off the park and ensuring they were being educated as well as providing a good rugby program.

    Darcy likened it to people wanting to be part of the Crusaders due to thier success.



  • @taniwharugby

    He might say he's not doing anything different, but he'd be lying.

    He's not doing anything much worse than the other really bad schools. But he's ripping the best players out of smaller and poorer schools -- a fact he carefully avoids.

    The Crusaders do not poach players locked in to other franchises. There'd be an uproar if they took Beauden Barrett when they needed a first five. There was a fair bit of fuss when Rennie took Cruden -- that was considered off.



  • @chester-draws well as he has gone on national radio and said that, I am sure if there is evidence proving he is lying, then he will get found out and you'd expect need to find a new job



  • @taniwharugby

    His board agree with him. Why would they sack him?

    That they're ripping off other schools to make themselves look good is a feature, not a bug.



  • @chester-draws if he is proven to be lying, I dont expect it would go down well.

    So if a kid does choose to go to them from another school, from where ever, is that still wrong?

    As an aside, I dont give a rats about St Kents, I just struggle to believe they are doing things any different to any of these other schools claiming the moral high ground.



  • @taniwharugby Some lies are just ignored. We're not babies -- the world is like that. I can name any number of political lies that are ignored, and so can you.

    There's no higher power in this case to enforce honesty, because the St Kent's board are complicit.

    Do I think it's wrong that kids are poached? Yes. 100%. I'm pretty hardline on schools being primarily about learning, and sport should be secondary.

    Kids taken on sports scholarships are expected to deliver on the field. Woe betide them if they decide that actually they'll use the opportunity and spend their time studying. It's actually detrimental to the education of kids to get a sports scholarship for this reason. (I've taught at a private school and seen this in action -- the kids were often a poor social fit too, and some were downright miserable as a result.)

    There are kids whose parents arrange that they attend a good school, and use sport as a leverage to get them in. That's fine, because the sport is being used as a complement.

    When sport takes precedence over learning, then a school is out of line.



  • @chester-draws well any of those funding St Kents might (or should) take a different view if he is lying publically.

    At the end of the day, I think we have the same view point, just arguing from different points.



  • Yep, at least four viewpoints from schools:

    • the school(s) doing the poaching
    • the schools having to play the school(s) doing the poaching
    • the schools that lose players due to poaching
    • the schools playing the schools losing players due to poaching

    Then there's the perspective from the poached players & their families; the perspective from players staying behind in the team arguably weakened by poaching; the perspective from the provincial competition the poaching school takes part in; the perspective from the provincial competition the poached school takes part in (if different); the perspective of the sports councils responsible for the respective competitions and the Top Four; and the perspective of NZR.

    It's a complex problem with a lot of potential consequences. It needs to be sorted out. No matter how important school rugby is for the development of (professional) rugby in NZ, schools are first and foremost educational institutions that should produce young people with sufficient basic qualifications, because only a small fraction of students will make it in professional sports. That should IMO be the most important consideration. Apart from that, I'm siding with the individual players as well as the poorer/no name schools that lose players due to poaching (and those two sides can have conflicting interests).

    By the way, even if Scott's College are guilty of the same kind of poaching as some of the Auckland Schools, it hasn't helped them much in recent years. They can't win the Wellington Premiership, let alone the Hurricanes championship. They get smashed on a regular basis, by schools they possibly poach from.



  • 'Poaching' is a technicality. The only way a school can be caught doing this is if a staff member/employee of the school is caught, with evidence i.e. and eye-witness who will testify who witnessed the approach.
    If they get another person/kid/friend anyone not employed by the school to say "I think you should contact the school" it is not classified as poaching. Schools can then say that they are not 'actively' recruiting players using this, as long as it can be proved the first contact was made by the parent.
    You can see how easy it is to get around the rules. In my time involved in 1st XV rugby I have seen many accusations but only one that has gone even close to being upheld.
    I guarantee that all schools do this to some degree but it is 'within' the rules which are incredibly loose and impossible to enforce.
    Good watching though!



  • @taniwharugby Of course Hodge wouldn't lie, being the principal of a good Presbyterian school.

    If a school is poaching a talented rugby player from another school for only year 13 you can't say it's for a better education.



  • @98blueandgold sure there will be some parent of a poached kid who will not be happy with how things have panned out for their kid and could tell all.

    @Bovidae I was more saying it is a big jump from someone doing this and staying silent than going on national radio and blatantly lying...my point was nothing to do with a principal or type of school.

    I went to Whangarei Boys High, never anything to do with St. Kent's so dont really care and it isn't like this poaching/recruiting is a new thing, it's just 1st 15 rugby is on TV now.



  • Just watched Chris Grinter from RBHS on TV and had to laugh. I'm not against kids changing schools but he comes across as the moral police is classic! The only reason they are upset is that it is now happening to them! They have spent the last 20 years recruiting players from 'lesser' schools and have been stated that it is the opportunity their schools provide and then get upset when it happens to them? 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣



  • Moral highground aside I think its important from the players at the schools as well.

    When I was at Lindisfarne had a mate who got kicked out of Kings, his dad was loaded sent him down to our school (this was in 5th form).

    He came down to watch our 1st 15 trials at the end of it he was talking to our coach about paying to get 3 big islanders one at hooker/prop one loosey and a big midfielder. The coach turned it down and none of us as players wanted it because we had played for the school from 3rd form (some from form 1) and had earnt the right.

    I get it if a kid randomly comes on his own or parents shift to a new area thats different. When you put in hard work and have pride for the school and jersey you don't want to see yourself or mates miss out on the chance to play 1st 15.

    For the record it would have been pointless as we stil would have had a million points put on us by very good HBHS and NBHS.

    Wanganui Collegiate imported some big po po's into their first 15 from memory. Pretty sure that was the case and one went on one of his high school years to play for wanganui in 3rd div.

    Scots and St Kents both played as in yearly quads and scots didn't win their first game in it until 2002 (they happened to beat us after having 10 starters injured a week earlier). St Kents weren't amazing when we played them either they were usually challanged by STAC.

    Was surprised a few years later to see Scots and St Kents in National Finals.



  • Does anyone know how many rugby teams St Kents has compared to the other 1A schools?

    My understanding is that they don't have that many teams in the lower grades so have less players to develop from year 9 that can become future 1st XV players. If that is correct, they have a very top-heavy structure.



  • @98blueandgold said in 2019 School Rugby:

    Just watched Chris Grinter from RBHS on TV and had to laugh. I'm not against kids changing schools but he comes across as the moral police is classic! The only reason they are upset is that it is now happening to them! They have spent the last 20 years recruiting players from 'lesser' schools and have been stated that it is the opportunity their schools provide and then get upset when it happens to them? 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

    That really does highlight the hypocrisy across the board of this issue.



  • When Kevin Fallon was at MAGS they had a football academy that attracted the best players from all over NZ. Their 1st XI dominated the national tournaments. This was before the current principal's time but it does highlight this was/is happening in all sports and a lot of schools.



  • @98blueandgold said in 2019 School Rugby:

    'Poaching' is a technicality. The only way a school can be caught doing this is if a staff member/employee of the school is caught, with evidence i.e. and eye-witness who will testify who witnessed the approach.
    If they get another person/kid/friend anyone not employed by the school to say "I think you should contact the school" it is not classified as poaching. Schools can then say that they are not 'actively' recruiting players using this, as long as it can be proved the first contact was made by the parent.
    You can see how easy it is to get around the rules. In my time involved in 1st XV rugby I have seen many accusations but only one that has gone even close to being upheld.
    I guarantee that all schools do this to some degree but it is 'within' the rules which are incredibly loose and impossible to enforce.
    Good watching though!

    Absolutely the way it is done. It is easy to achieve and impossible to prove. When the Principal says "we don't poach" they don't mean "we don't take poached players", they mean "my staff don't personally do the poaching".

    I've seen a boy at the school I was teaching at approached pretty every year by "interested parties", to change to a Boys High School. The BHS knew it was happening, but they didn't care, since they personally were not doing the approaching. We had a rather dodgy sports director for a while who used to have some contacts he relied on to do this stuff for him, and he would indicate the boy he wanted them to target (not rugby, but a sport we were national level competitive in). It was blatant, but unprovable.

    The more aggressive schools simply go to the islands. Since that is not poaching, it is perfectly legal. And so some NZ kid misses out to an islander (and I've seen a few come over that barely speak English).



  • @chester-draws said in 2019 School Rugby:

    @98blueandgold said in 2019 School Rugby:

    'Poaching' is a technicality. The only way a school can be caught doing this is if a staff member/employee of the school is caught, with evidence i.e. and eye-witness who will testify who witnessed the approach.
    If they get another person/kid/friend anyone not employed by the school to say "I think you should contact the school" it is not classified as poaching. Schools can then say that they are not 'actively' recruiting players using this, as long as it can be proved the first contact was made by the parent.
    You can see how easy it is to get around the rules. In my time involved in 1st XV rugby I have seen many accusations but only one that has gone even close to being upheld.
    I guarantee that all schools do this to some degree but it is 'within' the rules which are incredibly loose and impossible to enforce.
    Good watching though!

    Absolutely the way it is done. It is easy to achieve and impossible to prove. When the Principal says "we don't poach" they don't mean "we don't take poached players", they mean "my staff don't personally do the poaching".

    I've seen a boy at the school I was teaching at approached pretty every year by "interested parties", to change to a Boys High School. The BHS knew it was happening, but they didn't care, since they personally were not doing the approaching. We had a rather dodgy sports director for a while who used to have some contacts he relied on to do this stuff for him, and he would indicate the boy he wanted them to target (not rugby, but a sport we were national level competitive in). It was blatant, but unprovable.

    The more aggressive schools simply go to the islands. Since that is not poaching, it is perfectly legal. And so some NZ kid misses out to an islander (and I've seen a few come over that barely speak English).

    that was happening before rugby was a career, so i can imagine it's even worse now.




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