Rugby: Liquidation now unlikely but still tough times ahead

The storm clouds may be clearing over Otago rugby. Things seemed grim, very grim, two weeks ago.

The Otago canoe was up a creek without a paddle, the rapids were coming and it was taking on water.

But it looks as if a bit of back-room dealing, some honest truths and realistic budgeting will see the union get over the finish line by next Friday and stave off liquidation.

But it will not be a Usain Bolt-like celebration when - or if - it breaks the tape.

The union is going to have make some big calls in the next few months, and the public is going to have to come to terms with some 2012 expectations.

The union must simply live within its budget. Plain and simple.

What is coming in must be what is spent. No more punts on how many people might come to games, or putting it on the never-never. A house-owner cannot have Sky television if they cannot put food on the table. The Otago union has to live by the same ethos.

The books must balance. Staff will leave and maybe it will go full circle and the union will just employ a manager and an assistant as it did 25 years ago.

There should be no more spending on players which are just not that good, which is one of the main reasons the union has got into this mess.

Sport is riddled with cliches and one we hear all the time these days is sport is a business.

So if it is, why pay top dollar for a player who cannot attract a large crowd to watch him every week ?It is sort of like paying $2 million for a B-grade actor. No-one wants to see his film so how can he justify the top wage?It is the same for rugby players. When they reach a certain ability they get paid.

Until then they shouldn't. Maybe a bit of money for petrol and a small helping hand.

But not in the region of $60,000 for three months' play.

This is going to lead to a team which is based around players born and bred in Otago. For years people have been preaching more Otago-based players to be selected. They will now get their wish.

Will they be good enough? Who knows? Let's hope so.

Compared to other parts of the country, Dunedin is not a big place.

It was the commercial centre of the country once but that was before the motor car was invented.

Big cities attract big sponsorship dollars. The days of competing against the financial muscle of Auckland and Wellington are over. And money does matter. It shouldn't, but in this flawed rugby model it does.

Otago just has to keep a committed core of sponsors and make sure every cent counts.

The implications of the belt-tightening may go far and wide.

Kids are not going to get their free rugby ball this season. Are junior representative teams going to journey to tournaments?

The board must change as must the union's constitution on voting in board members.

But, like everything in sport, one thing will make the union strong and healthy again.

The Otago ITM Cup team just has to go out and win. Winning makes everything rosy.

Look at the England rugby team last year - players on the booze, lose and completely slated from pillar to post.

All Blacks last year - players on the booze, win and give the coach a knighthood.

Winners are grinners. Be it in the board room or accountancy office, or on the field, winning makes things seem better. Much, much better.


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