Opinion: Men and woman vote at AGM

The previous headquarters of one of New Zealand's biggest sporting organisations is like a flashy winger, standing on the fringes with the wind from the waterfront brushing against its pretty but earthquake-prone structure - making it look elitist and isolated.

It is regularly mentioned throughout the 121st annual meeting of the New Zealand Rugby Union that grassroots engagement in rugby is at the heart of the organisation. It is rather fitting, then, that the new building resides in the heart of Wellington, rather than on the fringes.

New Zealand Rugby House is like a stocky forward in the middle of a scrum or maul. Other office buildings flank it from all directions, and the waterfront and Beehive can be seen in the distance. Like a forward, it is a little rough around the edges, the final touches to the entrance and foyer still to be completed.

If you've ever wondered what goes on in an AGM, here is my perspective, as I sit on the fourth floor of this new headquarters.

I'm surrounded by a largely male audience wearing dark suits. Pockets of colour are provided by the handful of women in the room, and when the roll call for voting delegates takes place, one lone female voice is heard.

We won't know until later in the day whether history will be made in the form of a female independent director being appointed. I don't hold my breath.

Nevertheless, the vibe is positive due to 2012 being a satisfying year for the NZRU on and off the field. The organisation scored itself 87 out of 100 for performance, which is the best self-assessment since 2005.

This was due to a winning All Black side, outstanding competitions, effective structures, strong community rugby, positive global presence, and an inspirational World Cup legacy.

The finances are explained in detail by the chief financial officer, Jannine Mountford, who explains how the $3.2 million profit was delivered.

Being back in black puts a positive spin on the meeting, and we smile when we learn that the staff referred to the Webb Ellis Trophy affectionately as ''Wiremu'' during the World Cup road trip last year.

With a healthy cash reserve of $52 million and the support of adidas and AIG, things are looking up, and poor performances from the provincial unions (financially), the under-20s and the Black Ferns hardly cause a ripple in this optimistic setting.

With the reporting phase of the meeting completed, the business of elections then dominates proceedings.

It is fitting that Sir Brian Lochore is elected as a patron and life member of the NZRU. With humour and humbleness, he accepts the honour and thanks Wairarapa-Bush and his family.

Ian MacRae is elected president, taking the place of Bryan Williams, who did a great job in this figurehead role leading up to and during the World Cup.

Those nominated for the vice-president role, Mark Peters and David Rhodes, try to convince the voting delegates that they're the best person for this job - essentially, an apprenticeship role for the presidency.

Both men mention their rugby, business, community and family backgrounds to win votes. Surprisingly their wives feature significantly in their sales pitch to act as good ambassadors.

Unfortunately, it is realised late in the voting process that Mark Peters is not eligible to take on the vice-presidency role because he hasn't been off the NZRU board for five years. Even with the slickest of PowerPoint slides, speeches and processes, the NZRU slips up in the bureaucratic minefield of clauses that surrounds an AGM.

The glitch in proceedings results in the vice-presidency remaining vacant until a special meeting is called at a later date.

The controversy of this oversight makes an otherwise run-of-the-mill meeting a tad exciting but we eventually move on to decide who will replace outgoing board member Graham Mourie, the only remaining ex-All Black on the board.

There are two candidates: John Mowbray and former All Black Mark Robinson. At a sprightly 38, Robinson wins the majority of votes, which suggests the experiences, perspectives and networks of an ex-All Black are still considered valuable in the effective governance of our national game.

As the meeting comes to a close, the deep drone of male chitchat fills the room, congratulatory handshakes for the new fish heads takes place, and we mix and mingle while considering how the positive financial status, fresh dwelling and new kids on the NZRU block will impact on our little corner of New Zealand rugby.

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