NH Ditch Junior rep sides



  • North Harbour rugby bosses have axed their junior representative programme for kids – a move officials say is aimed at changing emphasis from performance to participation.
    
    General manager of the Albany-based union David Gibson confirmed what is set to be a polarising move in an exclusive interview with the Weekend Herald, also revealing there were already indications from a "couple of parents" that they would be transferring their rugby-playing children to clubs in rival unions.
    
    Under the change, North Harbour will become New Zealand's first provincial union to dissolve its junior rep programme. It will not assemble an under-14 team and it has discontinued the end-of-season Junior Club Representative Tournament, in which each club assembles its "best" players.
    
    Instead Gibson – a former Blues and New Zealand Māori halfback – said it would introduce "rugby development experiences" they are forming in conjunction with the clubs and that will be available to all players. They will also introduce a non-contact Rippa grade targeting boys between 8-13, and girls' under-15s and school grades.
    
    The dramatic shift in emphasis had been the result of 14 months' work and was evidence-based, Gibson said.
    

    Here are the reasons:

    "Harbour's purpose is 'Improving Lives, Through Rugby', and when it comes to our community we want to maximise engagement and grow participation through quality experiences.
    
    "For us this means cultivating a climate of development and fun around our junior rugby programmes and putting the kids at the centre of the experience."
    
    The evidence Gibson and his colleagues studied pointed to rep rugby and the prominence being given to high-performance as an impediment to participation.
    
    As part of its review into secondary schools rugby, New Zealand Rugby released figures that showed a sharp drop-off in the numbers of school-age boys playing the national sport. One of the key reasons given for this was that teenagers quickly lost interest if they did not feel they were on a performance pathway.
    
    Bill Wigglesworth, who leads Harbour's engagement and participation team, said the concept was not without internal debate.
    
    "We had to challenge ourselves on whether this was the correct approach, but in the end the evidence was overwhelming," he said. "[Children] want to have fun, play with their mates, learn new skills and be supported.
    
    "Rugby is a late specialisation sport and introducing performance and rep programmes too early can create behaviours that discourage participation in kids and have a negative impact on their physical and emotional development.
    
    "We are not saying that performance or representative programmes are negative … this is more adjusting the current system and introducing a talent development programme at a more appropriate age."
    

    So, if I understand it correctly, they're saying that if you have a performance pathway at an early age, kids drop out of rugby if they're not on that performance pathway. Hence, the dropping player numbers. And that's why they're stopping the performance pathway at that age alltogether, and introduce a programme that they hope will increase participation.

    North Harbour rugby founder and inaugural coach Peter Thorburn – who was also an ex-All Blacks selector - said he was "a bit shocked" by the move.
    
    "At first glance, it feels like a backward step," he said, before acknowledging he hadn't seen the sums Harbour bosses were working with.
    
    Thorburn said it was inevitable that no matter the age, players wanted to play at the highest possible level.
    
    "We have to offer players every opportunity to progress."
    
    Harbour's stance is supported by AUT academic Simon Walters, who runs the coaching research team.
    
    "An overriding focus on winning at an early age has a number of costs," he said. "These include closing the door on late developers and late maturers; kids not developing the all-round skills they will need later if they stay with the sport; greater rates of overuse injuries; burnout and, ultimately, dropout."
    
    The fallout from Harbour's decision, given the primacy of rugby in this country, is likely to spark fierce debate.
    
    Gibson knows that but said "ultimately we want to make rugby an even more enjoyable experience for the kids, which is the most important part of this for us".
    
    Two years ago, Netball Mainland received flak for ending representative programmes under high school age. Critics described the move as "PC gone mad".
    



  • It's interesting to read some of the responses to Taylah Hodson-Tomokino's tweet:



  • https://www.radiosport.co.nz/sport-news/rugby/north-harbour-kicks-junior-rep-rugby-to-touch-in-shock-move/?fbclid=IwAR0B-tcwotcIZzMc5KRcPZruxzhLkU8aa84_r1p0e4ub-br8Kjr86EzdlfI

    North Harbour rugby bosses have axed their junior representative programme for kids – a move officials say is aimed at changing emphasis from performance to participation.

    General manager of the Albany-based union David Gibson confirmed what is set to be a polarising move in an exclusive interview with the Weekend Herald, also revealing there were already indications from a "couple of parents" that they would be transferring their rugby-playing children to clubs in rival unions.

    Under the change, North Harbour will become New Zealand's first provincial union to dissolve its junior rep programme. It will not assemble an under-14 team and it has discontinued the end-of-season Junior Club Representative Tournament, in which each club assembles its "best" players.

    Instead Gibson – a former Blues and New Zealand Māori halfback – said it would introduce "rugby development experiences" they are forming in conjunction with the clubs and that will be available to all players. They will also introduce a non-contact Rippa grade targeting boys between 8-13, and girls' under-15s and school grades.

    The dramatic shift in emphasis had been the result of 14 months' work and was evidence-based, Gibson said.

    "Harbour's purpose is 'Improving Lives, Through Rugby', and when it comes to our community we want to maximise engagement and grow participation through quality experiences.

    "For us this means cultivating a climate of development and fun around our junior rugby programmes and putting the kids at the centre of the experience."

    The evidence Gibson and his colleagues studied pointed to rep rugby and the prominence being given to high-performance as an impediment to participation.

    As part of its review into secondary schools rugby, New Zealand Rugby released figures that showed a sharp drop-off in the numbers of school-age boys playing the national sport. One of the key reasons given for this was that teenagers quickly lost interest if they did not feel they were on a performance pathway.

    ill Wigglesworth, who leads Harbour's engagement and participation team, said the concept was not without internal debate.

    "We had to challenge ourselves on whether this was the correct approach, but in the end the evidence was overwhelming," he said. "[Children] want to have fun, play with their mates, learn new skills and be supported.

    "Rugby is a late specialisation sport and introducing performance and rep programmes too early can create behaviours that discourage participation in kids and have a negative impact on their physical and emotional development.

    "We are not saying that performance or representative programmes are negative … this is more adjusting the current system and introducing a talent development programme at a more appropriate age."

    North Harbour rugby founder and inaugural coach Peter Thorburn – who was also an ex-All Blacks selector - said he was "a bit shocked" by the move.

    "At first glance, it feels like a backward step," he said, before acknowledging he hadn't seen the sums Harbour bosses were working with.

    Thorburn said it was inevitable that no matter the age, players wanted to play at the highest possible level.

    "We have to offer players every opportunity to progress."

    Gibson knows the move will not be universally popular but hopes critics will consider the drivers behind the change, which is essentially to make rugby a more enjoyable experience for all children.

    He already had indications from a "couple of parents" they would be taking their children to clubs in another union.

    Harbour's stance is supported by AUT academic Simon Walters, who runs the coaching research team.

    "An overriding focus on winning at an early age has a number of costs," he said. "These include closing the door on late developers and late maturers; kids not developing the all-round skills they will need later if they stay with the sport; greater rates of overuse injuries; burnout and, ultimately, dropout."

    The Roller Mills is one of New Zealand Rugby's most storied tournaments. Open to northern region unions Northland, North Harbour, Counties Manukau, Thames Valley, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, King Country and Taranaki, the 94-year-old competition has a distinguished honour roll that includes several All Black legends like Grant Fox and Sir Michael Jones.

    The North Harbour union was created in 1985 and has sent a team to the tournament every year since.

    The fallout from Harbour's decision, given the primacy of rugby in this country, is likely to spark fierce debate.

    Gibson knows that but said "ultimately we want to make rugby an even more enjoyable experience for the kids, which is the most important part of this for us".

    Two years ago, Netball Mainland received flak for ending representative programmes under high school age. Critics described the move as "PC gone mad".



  • @taniwharugby said in NH ditch Junior rep rugby teams...:

    Gibson knows the move will not be universally popular but hopes critics will consider the drivers behind the change, which is essentially to make rugby a more enjoyable experience for all children.

    I struggle to understand the drivers, how is removing that representative opportunity for the better quality kids going to enhance their enjoyment of the game?

    My son has enjoyed rugby, last year he made his first 'rep' (was a sub-union one) side, and it has been the highlight of his rugby 'career' to date.

    They get to play with different kids, under different coaches, experience playing in new locations, basically gives them a whole new experience and something to aspire too if they are up to it. TR JNr was never bothered previously, he knew he wasnt good enough, but after a small taste last year, has made him look at things differently.

    I just dont see how it is a good move?



  • It’s essentially political correctness, participation valued over achievement.

    It’s completely possible to make sport fun and still strive for excellence.

    The flow on affects for their senior Rugby in ten years will be pretty dire.



  • @Kirwan yeah that is gonna be interesting, in 10 years what will the knock on effect be to NH Rugby given the good shape they are in at the moment.



  • @taniwharugby said in NH ditch Junior rep rugby teams...:

    I struggle to understand the drivers, how is removing that representative opportunity for the better quality kids going to enhance their enjoyment of the game?

    My experience is that junior rep rugby doesn't target the better kids, so I have quite a lot of sympathy for the idea. Junior reps are the kids that have played the longest and/or are the earlier developers and/or play for the best teams and coaches. As a kid who was at the wrong end of the year, I thought I was much worse at rugby than I was, whereas it was merely that I was close to 11 when the "stars" were almost 13. At that age it's a huge matter.

    As a guy who has seen literally thousands of kids flow through from junior rep rugby into secondary school rugby, I don't see any link between who is good at 18 and who is good at 12. I've seen so many kids come into school all pumped up because they played Roller Mills or such, only to find that they were merely early developers. Meanwhile some quiet kid who develops late, but has a good work ethic, is a much better player. Our school stopped selecting teams based on previous rep experience and went with who trained harder.

    There's quite a few on this site that argue even 1st XV rugby continues the practice of merely selecting the biggest players, rather than the most skillful, which is why Auckland can't convert its massive base into provincial dominance.

    And the worst part of the rep system is that it ingrains any selections based on age/size etc. Those kids get to play more and get the best coaches. Meanwhile some late developer gets only half the rugby and less good coaching.

    This is not to say that NH is right. Sometimes a bad system is better than no system. I simply do not think that being selected as a rep, aged 11, is any guide to anything much.

    Much guess will be that it will have zero long term effect on NH rugby.



  • @Chester-Draws

    Yeah I agree with this. There isn’t always real evaluation, just the kids with physical stats shine more but when everyone’s got through the growth spurt and it’s a level playing field you find out who the better players are. I doubt U10 rep selection predicts who makes senior A side.



  • @Chester-Draws having been around alot of the kids who have made rep teams since they start having them here, the ones I have seen have been selected on ability, there will always be one or two that make it based on who they know or who thier dad was or uncle, but I havent seen anything like what you allude to...Yet.

    The experience TR JNr got form the sub-union rep side last year, was awesome, the new friends he made, the things he picked up from the other coach (given I've been his coach since he was 5) He is also unlikely to make another rep side, but the experience has made him at least want to.

    I actually preferred Roller MIlls as it gets rid of alot of the early bloomers (physically) due to the weight restrictions.

    We have one boy in our team, farking outstanding loosie, he is 13 now, he played Roller MIlls last year, which was 57kg restricted, he weighed 40kg when he played RM, I think he is about 48kg now. PLayed in all the rep teams they have up until now.

    When he puts on some size, he will be even better, has everything going for him with technique, skills, engine, speed, but most importantly, smarts.

    This kid has some pedigree with relatives having played to the highest level, but is not a 'name' people would know to associate with them.

    Smart coaches will always look for the hard workers anyway...there is a guy they get on RS regularly and he always talks about how he looks for the hard working kids over the physically gifted ones.

    Build your team around them, rather than the big kid.



  • @Billy-Tell said in NH Ditch Junior rep sides:

    I doubt U10 rep selection predicts who makes senior A side.

    plenty of NZ Schoolboys or U20s that dont go on to make the ABs, may as well ditch those teams too.



  • I agree with @Chester-Draws and it has absolutely nothing to do with political correctness. The analysis is based on research. But we'll have to wait and see whether North Harbour has addressed the issue of decreasing player numbers with the right response (whether this will be a solution) to keep kids in rugby longer.



  • I may be way off base here, but from what little I know of age grade reps, it seems that selection is even more riddled with nepotism than senior reps. Any truth to that?



  • @Milk thats what has been alluded to above, but then there are claims of bias at AB level too...



  • It may have changed but my first taste of junior rep was for the Whangarei Bears circa 1991 where we travelled to I think Kaitaia and participated in an 8 team tournament. I believe I was around 12 years old and there was a weight limit of maybe 52 kilos. We got billeted out two to a house.

    This tournament was so much fun and I got to meet loads of other kids and just play rugby. The atmosphere was fantastic and I can still remember watching the final with all the other kids.

    I think Jason Shoemark was the only one I remember from our side that kicked on.

    Even though I played in this tournament it didn't stop my 16 year old brain wanting to shag chicks, smoke pot and drink piss instead of playing rugby. I so wish I had continued playing and not done all the stupid shit I did in my teens.



  • @chimoaus that was the tournament my son played in last year, now called Taniwha shield, weight restricted to 57kg (same as Roller Mills) although this was problematic for some of the kids at around 60kg...

    if you played in 91, you would be about 5 years younger than me...



  • @taniwharugby said in NH Ditch Junior rep sides:

    @chimoaus that was the tournament my son played in last year, now called Taniwha shield, weight restricted to 57kg (same as Roller Mills) although this was problematic for some of the kids at around 60kg...

    if you played in 91, you would be about 5 years younger than me...

    Glad to hear it is still going, it was a fun experience.



  • Wow the NH tree hugging brigade are really taking a gamble here.

    Don’t mind them scrapping club rep sides, but the union rep scrapping is a joke. It’s a big thing for young kids to get a taste of pulling on their provincial/sub union jersey. Helps aspiration..

    Can see a good spin off for Auckland and Northland here. Southern parents may take their kids over the bridge and northern ones through to Wellsford.. that’s my only positive! 😝



  • @Stargazer said in NH Ditch Junior rep sides:

    I agree with @Chester-Draws and it has absolutely nothing to do with political correctness. The analysis is based on research. But we'll have to wait and see whether North Harbour has addressed the issue of decreasing player numbers with the right response (whether this will be a solution) to keep kids in rugby longer.

    Not having seen the research, we can’t tell if the conclusions were valid or not.

    It’s a fact that player numbers are decreasing, but is that to do with rep teams or the modern life impact on children’s activity levels?

    It stinks of PC participation bollocks, and with the infestation of extreme leftist views in academia I’d want to take a very thorough look at the methodology used before throwing away pathways for kids to excel.

    Remember too that’s Rugby is not popular with certain types and is seen as representing made up issues like toxic masculinity.



  • Why can't they just keep both reps and the orange slice league? CF jnr's football club has rep teams and in house league teams. Then both levels of players can be happy



  • @canefan said in NH Ditch Junior rep sides:

    Why can't they just keep both reps and the orange slice league? CF jnr's football club has rep teams and in house league teams. Then both levels of players can be happy

    Far too sensible.


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