Time for clubs to run junior rugby?

Alhambra-Union juniors during a march past. Photo: ODT files
Is it time?

I have been beating the drum since the season started that we are in crisis over numbers, especially at colts level, so what is the solution? It has been bandied around for years if the kids kept playing for their clubs through secondary school we wouldn't see the dramatic drop in numbers as teenagers. As they exit schools in Dunedin they are just not playing rugby at club level. I'm not sure what happens in the country - please let me know. Rugby is now really only played at the single-sex schools: Otago Boys', Johnnies and Kings. Rugby really doesn't exist at Kavanagh, Bayfield, Kaikorai and Logan Park and Taieri is also teetering. I haven't been a fan of the clubs controlling the under-14 to under-18 grades as I've worried whether they are organised enough. But if we don't make change, we die. End of story.

The junior club numbers are really strong in most clubs but this doesn't replicate into the senior clubs. Pirates and Southern are prime examples. The junior clubs in the main are a lot better organised than senior clubs as they have a lot more parent volunteers. So is it time the clubs took control of their own destinies? The numbers are no longer coming through the varsity system and, as my spies tell me, 60% of the university intake is now female. This would mean clubs run the under-14 through to under-18 competitions or, in effect, everything below first XV level. School players would play for their clubs on Saturdays and interschool during the week. As said, the first XV structure would need to be handled separately.

What will the schools say to this? Well the big three wouldn't agree as they are running very good programmes. The others struggle to get quality coaching as teachers are struggling to fit everything in now. But we need to get a steering group to work this option because, if we don't, rugby in this town is dead in 10 years, make no mistake. I'd love some feedback on what happens in Central, South and North Otago. Do we need to do the same there?

Referees fronting up

I'm hearing there was some controversy in the Harbour-Eels game (when isn't there?). The game was tight and a Harbour player, Brumwell I think, tripped a Taieri lad 40m out from the line and ref Joel Hibbs awarded a penalty try and dished out a yellow, You can imagine the uproar at Port Chalmers. I hear a mini-earthquake followed and the town hall clock clattered into the street! Now I have no issue with the decision, and good on Joel for making a tough call, but the word is he didn't go into the Hawks clubrooms afterwards to have a beer and defend his decision. He would have been welcomed with open arms by the burly ``stevedores'' - surely! But this is the only way to break down the barriers and defuse emotional situations. Harty ref's head honcho needs to remind his team that they are a part of the fabric of rugby and having a beer and discussing the game is a part of what they do - here endeth the lesson.

Lock up your daughters!

I hear there is a Hurring 50th on tonight at the Clutha clubrooms (can't believe I haven't been invited) so yes lock up your daughters. Super Coach II Marty Hurring, of Clutha, Harbour and Otago B fame is having the 50th and here was me thinking he was closer to 60! Our Super Coaches have fallen apart this year with only Ryan Martin active and he's dumping Kaik. But Marty, happy birthday, mate, and enjoy the night and don't let ``Crazy'' lead you astray.

Heritage Day

The GI Spannerheads are having a Heritage Day next Saturday and they are honouring their banner-winning sides of the 1970s (I think they won '73, '74 and '78). They'll be rolling out a few heavies, Jaffrays by the truckload and even old ``Ham Fingers'' Bunton may turn up. More next week - but get along.

Bits I've missed

The world's tallest player (2.13m) at 7ft 2in should be on track for Harbour in the next couple of weeks - big Dean Williams, out of Auckland. I also hear there is a gun Samoan halfback on the way to Harbour, as well.

This Weekend

Calamitous loss to Bryan Morris, of Mitchells Tavern, for my first loss for the year but we move on. Have decided to take on the prem halfbacks this year in the picking comp, as they purport to know everything. First up is Legin Felix-Hotham. The Eels (12-) at home will get it done over Varsity at home on the back of Casey's boot. Kaik (12-) up at the High Veldt will beat Southern just if it can hold up at scrum time but a big ask. The Hawks (13+) migrate to the Toolbox and dish up the Spannerheads to get their season back on track. Zingers (12-) just pips the AU boys at the North Ground - but could go either way.

 - Paul Dwyer


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