I guess with 20 years of player and coach development at IRANZ and half that total coaching at club level, from age grade to Premier, I am equipped to make the following statement.
If we fail to keep club rugby and the base of our game strong, we will destroy the future strength and depth of the national game.
I have witnessed this happen in South Africa and Australia. Players have been picked direct out of school for Currie Cup teams in South Africa and Super teams in Australia, making Club rugby an irrelevant pathway.
Players at club level in South Africa are no longer serious about their rugby and selectors no longer watch and select from club level. It has become a social game and now the level of competitive players has wilted from 1000 contracted players to 500 in this last year.
In Australia it is not so noticeable because there is no substantial provincial competition but the same result is obvious, the talent pool has diminished and their results are there for all to see at Super level.
The coach example is even more graphic. Where is the breeding ground for growing coaches of diversity? It has all but disappeared. Ask any Australian or South African rugby person to name the options they have to coach the Wallabies and Springboks and they will stutter. Ask a Kiwi and there is any number of credible options.
The solution is to retain meaningful pathways for both players and coaches. These are eroding here in NZ to our detriment.
NZRU, as guardians of the game, need to provide effective leadership and impose some rules to stimulate ambition and opportunity.
In my next blog I will express my view on how this can be achieved.
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