Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Challenge Facing New Zealand Rugby

When I was in Wellington a couple of weeks ago, I caught up with Steve Tew, the CEO designate of New Zealand Rugby Union. He’s an impressive guy, whose reputation continues to grow both in New Zealand and on the world scene. Steve will take over the reins after the World Cup when Chris Moller stands down. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jock Hobbs stand down too and focus on the 2011 World Cup - so there will be a complete change at the top of New Zealand Rugby. To people in New Zealand, this is arguably more important than a change in government. Over the past five years, the NZRU have led the world and developed the game while still keeping connected to the grass roots. Further, driven by strong leadership at the top and great performance on the field by the All Blacks and Crusaders in particular, the Union has thrived commercially and in its reputation.

Critical things that make New Zealand Rugby the force it is in the world today are:

• On field performance by the All Blacks.
• The legacy of the All Black reputation and character.
• Our progressive willingness to embrace change.
• Strong leadership on and off the field.

Rugby football has been professional for just over a decade and now we are facing a major cluster of change. Southern Hemisphere versus Northern Hemisphere; club versus country; player burnout; French/English clubs poaching New Zealand players, and spectator apathy toward existing competitions.

In 1948, Cliff Gladwin, a Derbyshire medium pace bowler, was playing cricket for England. England were (as usual) in dire circumstances. As he trekked to the wicket, Cliff said to the South Africans waiting on the field, “Cometh the hour, cometh the man”. England won. Steve Tew. Over to you.

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