Wednesday's Ruck & Maul

Posted in Canada Rugby / Victoria BC / News / NSMT / Under 20

Wednesday's Ruck & Maul

This writer did receive some comments regarding a seeming lack of fairness of opinion in Monday’s Musings.  With credit to Island Sports News the above photo shows much of what I observed in the game.  With the line wide open and about the fifth recycle, a Canadian player was “held up”.  It is interesting to note seven U.S. players to the lone Canadian ball-carrier.  I rest my case.


Recruiting Youth for Rugby.


Today’s Ruck & Maul is based on a recent story from the NZ Herald.  It comes to our readers without authorization but with absolute credit and with thanks to the Herald’s article, along with a number of direct quotes.  I bring it to our reader’s attention somewhat in its entirety, rather than synthesizing a plagiarism of its content.  The issue is about Australian National Rugby League clubs poaching and contracting rugby union players as young as 14 and 15 from New Zealand!

“Glamor NRL clubs are increasingly swooping on talented schoolboy rugby talent from 15 years old to shine a spotlight on rugby union’s fractured pathways, and the financial disparity between the codes and raise the moral question of targeting impressionable teenagers.  In a wide-ranging investigation, after speaking with school coaches, parents and player agents, the Herald has uncovered at least seven players from under15’s school teams in Auckland who have signed with NRL clubs and relocated to Australia.  Five leading players from last year’s Auckland Grammar Under 15’s team were targeted, with two moving to Australia to join the Sydney Roosters and one from this year’s team signing with the Newcastle Knights.”

Although NRL clubs are legally permitted to sign players from the age of 15, 14-year-olds are now scouted as prospects!  Scouts are cropping up at school tournaments and following a recent U15 Tournament, the following was reported.

“It was the most professional junior training I have seen”, the parent said of the Roosters camp.  “I was blown away. They had contracted boys there in full Roosters gear.  I didn’t realize they could be contracted at that age.  After the first training my boy was hooked and wanted to keep going. I talked to the parents on the sideline, and they told me they were moving with their sons to live over in Sydney.  It was a common story, predominantly Pacific Island boys, and their families all moving to Sydney, so their sons could be part of this Roosters development pathway.  After the Auckland training camps concluded the Roosters flew teenagers to Sydney to sell the NRL dream; to tour their facilities, watch the top team train and shower prospects with club merchandise.”

“Across their three pathway grades, the NZ Warriors NRL club boast 26 union signings - 17 from Auckland schools.  League clubs train these teenagers through summer months and while some, such as the Warriors encourage prospects to return to their school teams under contract to continue their development, many other NRL clubs attempt to entice moves to Australia.  One school coach explains that once League swoops, teenagers are converted.  They target the young ones quite early, at 14, 15.  It’s appealing when an NRL club wants to fly you over, put you in hotels and go through a training week.”



“In 1996, some 28 years ago, the NRL’s total broadcast revenue was A$10 million compared to Super Rugby’s $85 million.  The NRL broadcast deal is now a $400 million behemoth while Super Rugby garners around $120 million.  As revenue continues to soar, the 17 NRL clubs each receive close to $19 million every year before opening their doors.  NRL clubs earn at least twice that of their Super Rugby counterparts and spend four times as much on marketing – all of which vastly enhances visibility and advances initiatives as scouting into rugby schools.”  Add to this, “depending on which part of the country your are in, Super Rugby either has a presence in that age group or it doesn’t.  We don’t have U15 representative teams.”

“Competition for talent, particularly in Auckland, the world’s largest Polynesian base, will always be intense but contracting youth at 15 years old raises the question of how young is too young?  While Union takes a hands-off approach at that age, League is not alone with scouting young talent along with basketball, football, touch and netball all providing U15 Provincial and National representative teams.”

This is a problem that is unknown to us in British Columbia, although I cannot comment with any authority as to what happens in hockey circles. This blogger will attempt to synthesize some opinions as to what has happened and what needs to be done.

Rugby is a late maturation sport and this early i.d. described often ruins lives when expectations are not met.  Ne’er-the-less there has been a complacency around talent i.d. However, to put one’s eggs into accepting such a small basket is often fractious for the kid and the family.  In N.Z. very little is done in terms of elite development until after the player leaves school.  It could be argued that if i.d. and development is overhauled, the appeal of a union pathway via clubs and Super Rugby is a great place for kids to be versus a league ‘poaching pathway’.  On this more positive note today’s story ends.