2020 School Rugby

  • Rob Waddell and school principals have gone to battle over the Olympic hero's plans to ramp up the broadcasting of school sport.
    A number of Auckland principals spoken to by the Herald feel they had been blindsided by the deal that has seen School Sport New Zealand (NZSSSC), the body that administers and co-ordinates secondary school sport, sign up to Waddell's New Zealand Sports Collective, which offers Sky TV exclusive rights to stream or broadcast a number of tournaments and events.
    Waddell and Associates, which owns New Zealand Sports Collective, has exclusive sponsorship and marketing rights to the events.
    James Bentley, the headmaster of Auckland's St Peter's College, said he only learned of the deal late last week when NZSSSC executive director Garry Carnahan distributed an email to all schools, and he was disturbed by what he read.
    "I have serious concerns about the commercialisation of secondary school sport," he told the Herald. "Who benefits from this? I can't see how it's of any value to the kids, which should be the first consideration."
    Bentley said, in his opinion, the experience of televised school rugby had proved that the likely outcome was the rich schools getting richer and more parents tricked into believing their kids were on pathways to professional sport.
    "This is just an extension into other school sport. I want to know who is making these decisions on our behalf and I would like to see all the financial implications of it," Bentley said.
    Waddell says he has the support of a number of principals and that the benefits are manifold.
    "The broadcast provides a single co-ordinated platform through which we can support cohesive messages around values in sport," Waddell wrote.
    "Bringing live streaming together under a single banner has enabled schools to have a seat at the table, ensuring that the needs of schools and the wellbeing of students are at the heart of the initiative and that revenue generated benefits school sport.
    "We're working with School Sport NZ and [national sporting organisations] to set standards for live streaming of schools content… [and] we're working with School Sport NZ to develop a charter to ensure that athletes/students and their wellbeing, enjoyment and positive development are the number one priorities in all matters relating to sponsorship and broadcast."
    The dispute comes at an awkward time for the country's sport leaders.
    Sport New Zealand this week rolled out a campaign they hope will move the evolution of youth sport from one focused on talent identification and high-performance pathways to participation.
    However, principals spoken to believe the move to stream more school sport will only exacerbate an already overheated arms race for schoolboy and schoolgirl talent.
    Principal of West Auckland's Massey High School Glen Denham, a former Tall Black captain, said that in his opinion there was "no doubt" this initiative will increase the talent drain away from low-decile schools to sporting powerhouses.
    He said ambitious parents were already nudging their kids in the direction of schools that are more likely to feature in televised games, citing the example of losing the school's best rugby player to St Kentigern College last year. 
    O'Connor said he remained highly sceptical about the need for more school sport to be broadcasted, and he wanted to know who exactly benefited and by how much.
    It was reminiscent of three years ago when New Zealand Rugby told principals that the national body would be taking over the running of Auckland's vaunted but increasingly controversial 1A rugby competition.
    They were given short shrift then and O'Connor can see a similar outcome this time.
    He emphasised that in his opinion the screening "of school sport has not been good for the boys involved" or the sport in general, with the seedier aspects of professional sport creeping through the school gates.
    Waddell said no schools would be compelled to compete on camera and would not face expulsion from events if they refused.
    Sky spokesperson Chris Major said: "If some principals don't want their students to be showcased on the Sky Sport Next platform then we're happy to have that conversation.
    Following the interview, Carnahan emailed an "update" to principals.
    His statement was essentially the same as what Waddell provided to the Herald, saying: "The School Sport NZ board resolved (after consultation with regional principal's organisations) to become involved as live streaming of many national school sport events was already taking place with the number of sports involved and platform providers increasing rapidly in ad hoc fashion."
    Last year it was announced that Sky Television was backing the New Zealand Sports Collective project at a cost of $10 million over three years. More than 50 national sports organisations, including School Sport New Zealand, had reportedly signed up to the deal.
    Almost immediately several NSO sources started contacting the Herald expressing concerns that their sport had not done due diligence on the deal and that they had been smitten by presence of Waddell, the 2000 Olympic Games single sculls gold medallist and current chef de mission of the New Zealand Olympic Committee.

  • I am not a fan of televising school rugby. I concept I thought of just now is to focus on the school leavers level with an age grade competition (U19/20/21) that would be televised that could be at provincial level or Super Rugby level.

  • @mikedogz Many of those age graders, esp U20/21 already play Mitre 10 Cup though. Don't see the added value.

  • It won't surprise anyone, but the World Schools Rugby Festival - that was to take place from 24 to 28 March 2020 in Pretoria - has been cancelled. The announcement was made on 6 March.

    I only know of one NZ School that had accepted the invitation to compete at this tournament, Kings College.

    I'm afraid that Hastings Boys' participation in the Sanix World Youth Rugby Tournament (April/May 2020) in Japan will share the same fate.

    Disappointing for the players of both teams; that opportunity will probably never come again for many of them.

  • Media release from New Zealand Rugby

    New Zealand Rugby Statement: COVID-19 Club and school rugby participation update
    16 MARCH 2020
    Statement from Steve Lancaster, New Zealand Rugby Head of Participation and Development regarding COVID-19 and club and school rugby participation in New Zealand:
    New Zealand Rugby continues to follow the COVID-19 advice provided by the Ministry of Health regarding public events and mass gatherings.
    At present there are no restrictions on mass gatherings or community activities.
    Given the fast-changing situation, these guidelines and advice are subject to change. We are expecting more guidance and direction tomorrow from the government regarding mass gatherings and community activities.
    We are continuing to monitor the situation with a view that health and safety is the number one priority for both rugby and the wider community.
    New Zealand Rugby advises our Provincial Unions, clubs and schools to make decisions which are best for their participants, whanau and communities.
    We also ask that everyone involved in the game maintain good hygiene practices, including regularly washing hands, rugby equipment and not sharing water bottles.
    Players, coaches, referees, parents and administrators are asked to stay away from rugby trainings, activities and meetings if they are feeling unwell.
    New Zealand Rugby and Provincial Unions are monitoring the situation constantly and will provide regular updates as and when they become available.
    We continue to ask everyone involved in rugby to support one another and follow the official government guidelines.


  • I don't think this already affects rugby, but I guess that's just a matter of time:


    Following the government announcement today banning gatherings and events of 500 or more and in conjunction with NSOs with events scheduled this term, the board of School Sport NZ has confirmed that all events on the School Sport NZ national calendar are suspended.
    This decision will be reviewed on Monday 6th April. Some events where alternative dates are not possible will be cancelled, others may be postponed and we will work with NSOs to make announcements in due course.
    The government directive banning mass gatherings of over 500 people automatically causes the cancellation or postponement of a number of events in the next 2 weeks.
    With so many big events automatically suspended the level of uncertainty has the potential to significantly disrupt attendance at all events.
    In making this decision to suspend events on the School Sport NZ national calendar both School Sport NZ and NSOs agree that the paramount factor is the health and safety of students, staff and community volunteers.
    The current environment already features a number of individual schools cancelling their own events such as sport exchanges and camps and making decisions limiting travel and participation.
    Events on the School Sport NZ national calendar feature schools travelling from all over New Zealand and as such present a potentially heightened risk of wider community spread by comparison to regional or local events.
    Medical advice is that the risk of transmission is low at community level, where there has been no person-to-person spread, but significantly higher in situations in which airports, air-travel and hotels are involved as characterised by events on the School Sport NZ national calendar.
    While student participants are registered, the ‘un-ticketed’ nature of events on the national calendar make it extremely difficult to contact trace as other attendees are not registered.
    The close personal contact nature of sport carries a heightened risk of person to person transfer.
    Regional bodies will need to consider their own circumstances in relation to their regional and local events.

    School Sport NZ national calendar

  • The preseason game between St Pat's Wellington and Auckland’s Botany Downs on April 4 has ben cancelled.

  • On the TV3 news they reported that there will be no NZ Schools team this year, presumably due to the uncertainty of when 1st XV rugby will start again and cost-cutting from NZR.

    The year 13 players will be gutted.

  • So the big carrot this year will be the regional competitions, assuming they are played in some capacity.

  • @Bovidae The media release says "local":

    NZSRU Chairman Garry Chronican said the early decision meant schools and organising committees can now prioritise running local competitions.
    “The Top Four championships have traditionally been the culmination of the secondary school rugby year. We’ve seen the start of school rugby disrupted already and now local secondary competitions can plan for a full season.

    I really hope they mean the likes of Super 8, and not really local (as in limited to schools from own province). In Hawke's Bay, the only really interesting game is between Napier and Hastings Boys. The rest are training runs.

  • May is usually for preseason/traditional rivalry games with the 1A, Super 8, etc starting in June. They are already going to be 1-2 months behind their normal schedule. It will be a short season for teams outside of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch if it is really local.

  • The CNI Competition has been proposed to split into two sections - North and South, pools of five followed by cross over semi-finals and final.
    The season will start on Saturday 25 July 2020.

    St Peter's Cambridge
    St Paul's Collegiate
    St Johns Hamilton

    Whanganui Collegiate School
    St John's Hastings
    Feilding HS

    The draw will be confirmed after the Government's announcement.

    The North section will be so much stronger.

  • @Bovidae Whanganui or Feilding the top favourites to win the South section, I think.

    Edited to add that if last year's standings are anything to go by, the North section will be stronger but not by a big margin.


  • @Stargazer

    Historically, only Feilding HS has been one of the stronger teams from the South, while 4 of the 5 teams from the North could win the competition. Whanganui Collegiate weren't that strong until last year.

  • This shows the high stakes for a schoolboy rugby player now. Players repeating their final year to make rep teams is not unusual but not on this (potential) scale.

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