Hertford Highlander

Imagine a life without rugby

Written by Gwyn Pratley (Hertford Highlander)

Posted in :All Blacks, Original Content, Super Rugby on 28 Feb 2012 at 12:00
Tagged with : ,

Today has been a dark day for Otago Rugby. Yesterday we woke to the news that our proud 135 year old Rugby Union would be liquidated before the weekend. We all knew that the books and balance sheet looked grim but, few were expecting such a stark announcement. Yesterday was yesterday but, today there seemed a darker not clearer potential outcome to the southern rugby crisis.

Tomorrow my daughter has her soccer registration that I was not going to attend, instead I was just going to send her along with her cousin for the annual sign-up. However, now I‘ve decided to accompany her along. I can’t imagine being my daughter’s age and growing up without rugby to watch, a team to support and local heroes to follow. The reality is that soccer could now be our family’s local sporting diet from now on – if we can attract the country’s one and only professional football team to play at the looming white elephant of a stadium of ours from time to time.

If Otago Rugby goes to the wall on Friday it may be just the wake-up call that professional rugby in New Zealand needs. For too long the NZRFU has tried to convince us that the ITM Cup could run successfully under its current fiscal model. Clearly it can’t and although Otago are the worst example of financial mismanagement there are clearly others Unions servicing large debt that will struggle in the years to come to trade their way out of impending doom.

However, the South’s loss could be all other New Zealand Unions gain as it may bring a re-structuring of how the NZRFU operates the third tier of professional rugby in this country.

It is fanciful and delusional for anyone to think that ITM Cup rugby is a fully professional competition.

It is not International Rugby nor is it Super Rugby; it is what it is, a third tier competition played on the whole by players who cannot cut it in the higher echelons of the game. Subsequently their pay packets must reflect their standing in the rugby playing hierarchy. Players from higher levels who want to grace ITM Cup fields more than adequately have their salaries picked up from on high, there is no need for provincial Unions to be also lining their pockets and inflating the salary market of other players that will never see loftier playing heights.

In life as in business one must live within ones means and no truer words could be applied to ITM Cup Rugby in New Zealand.

You can’t spend what you don’t have and the reality is that ITM Cup rugby is at a stretch semi-professional.

As the Otago Union has gone into a tail-spin this week speculation has been rife what has been paid to the players. It is thought that many Otago players were paid around $NZ 60,000 – 70,000 for three months at the office, that is what a teacher makes a year. What some players and the NZRFU may have to realise is that they are not worth that and if Unions and the ITM competition is going to survive they may have to be paid a quarter of what they are currently on.

We here in the South can’t keep forking out inflated sums of money that we don’t have on third tier rugby players. Now, that may mean they (players) go overseas and that’s a stark reality but, what it also may mean is that we stay in existence for future generations.

We here in the South may be the sacrificial lamb on Friday for the future of New Zealand rugby.

I hope that it serves as a wake-up call for all those involved with divvying up other Unions rugby coffers.

The NZRFU needs to step up to the plate in the wake of the passing of a this great Union, and show some real change and leadership to make sure that the future structure of the ITM Cup is sustainable for all participating Unions.

New Zealand Rugby needs to find a way of paying for itself in the professional era.

Tomorrow I will be going to a soccer registration and for the first time I will be taking more than just a passing interest in the game – for my daughter’s sake!


  • 😯 This is bad news!

    However Rob teach us to find the positive in everything on this site so I`m gonna give it the old college try.
    Do you think Bekhuis or Gear would consider a pay cut to come play for the Sharks?

  • Comment 1, posted at 28.02.12 12:28:28 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • Sad news!

  • Comment 2, posted at 28.02.12 12:31:00 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • Sad news indeed! 🙁

    HH, do you think this is the end of the Otago union? Are there any talks of it being ‘rebuilt’ at some point?

  • Comment 3, posted at 28.02.12 12:36:25 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • This really sucks. Feel for you HH. Could only imagine how I would feel if the Sharks were to be liquidated. 🙁

  • Comment 4, posted at 28.02.12 12:50:12 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • I feel for you mate. I don’t know what I’d do if the Sharks had to shut up shop.

    It would be a stress free environment for a while, but then what after that? 🙂

  • Comment 5, posted at 28.02.12 13:29:45 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • If i was a multi-billionaire i’d buy up all Otago’s debt and get some accountants in there to work some magic… Unfortunately i am at most a multi-thousandaire, and that just isn’t going to cut it…

  • Comment 6, posted at 28.02.12 13:47:15 by The Quirk Reply
    The Quirk

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