Comment: Player drain from South bound to hit clubs hard

Steve Hepburn
Steve Hepburn
We live in a global world, writes Steve Hepburn.

That beverage you so heartedly deserved last night might have come from any point of the globe. The television on which you watched the cricket this week might have been made in China.

Trade started in what is now the Middle East many years ago and now  connects all parts of the world.

Everything is tradeable and up for sale these days.

But the worrying issue for those fans of the oval ball is that in the South we are becoming an exporter of talent.

Over the past month, rugby players and coaches from the region  have signed deals to play in Japan, Singapore, Toronto and Texas.

Japan is becoming a second home for Otago and Southland players. The past four coaches to coach Otago — Ben Herring, Cory Brown, Tony Brown and Phil Mooney — have all coached or are coaching in Japan.

You could make a team of former Otago and Highlanders players who have ended up in Japan.

Now more worrying in particular for rugby supporters and administrators in the South is that places such as  Singapore and the United States are cropping up as importers of  talent.

Otago Boys’ High School first XV coach Ryan Martin is coaching the Asia-Pacific Dragons and former Highlander Hale T-Pole is heavily involved in the side.

They are setting up a team in Singapore — hardly a heaving hotbed of rugby talent.

So Martin needs players and where is he going to get them from?

It does not take a rocket scientist to know Martin and T-Pole are going to come to those they know — namely players from the South who are looking for a gig.

These are not the superstar All Blacks. Not the Beauden Barretts and Ben Smiths of this world.

These are the guys who are sightly better than average club players. The guys who are not going to crack Super Rugby but are good enough for the Otago Mitre 10 Cup team or Otago B.

There is talk of up to half a dozen players heading off from the Harbour club to Singapore while other players are being targeted.

The United States has set up a professional league and, after one year, is talking about expansion.

Otago lock Josh Larsen has signed for a club in Texas and Southland prop Morgan Mitchell has signed for the Toronto Arrows.

Others are said to be heading off although it is all a bit cloak and dagger at the moment.

Fair enough, it is a free world and players have to earn a keep. They are tradeable goods.

But unlike Central Otago apricots, good players do not grow on trees. They are a limited commodity. And supply is becoming limited.

Where this particular player drain is going to impact, and impact hard, is at the local club level.

Taking a dozen quality players out of club rugby will hurt in both Otago and Southland.

As the demise of Pirates premier team in Dunedin and other clubs round the South shows, players are simply not around.

The never ending supply of rugby talent that many talk of in this country is actually a bit of hogwash.

Players come and go but it seems at the moment they are going more than coming.

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