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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Allison said...

There is barely a child alive in New Zealand that hasn't been indoctrinated into the National sport of Rugby at an early age. I recall as a child, the excitement of getting up at 3am to watch the All Blacks play international Rugby. We'd gather around the spindly legged black and white telly, with blankets, a 3 pack box of chippies and some good lashings of Irish heritage. When a try was scored there'd be leaping and dancing around the room. It's so funny, I have video taped my family watching the rugby, what an education - though not for the faint hearted. We have spent many happy and passionate times over rugby and even with all of the changes to it over the years, my family can still be found assembled together, raucously chanting with reckless abandonment in front of the telly, any time the All blacks are playing.
I love the passion that this game stirs up in people.

Guy Towers said...

im in the 6th form at lrgs. i was just wondering why you consider yourself a kiwi when u talk so fondly of times at lrgs. what the hell is wrong with being english?

Tony said...

Hi Guy.
New Zealand was settled by a number of English who came looking for a better life - and they found it (as a kiwi, I'm glad they did).

Kevin Roberts said...

Hi Guy - I've never thought of myself as English. Lancastrian - yes. It's the Lancaster Red Rose I love - not St George. Now I'm a Kiwi - my personal company in NZ is called Red Rose Consulting.