NSW Cup Player
- May 15, 2012
NZRU say they don't want to stoop to the NRL's level in poaching players. This ignores the 100 years that union has been raping league of it's talent in the high school system.
The New Zealand Rugby Union has pledged not to be drawn into a ''contracting war'' with predatory rugby league scouts who are snaffling many of the code's elite young schoolboy players.
The loss of young rugby talent to the XIII-man code is a particular problem in the Auckland region which scouts from Australian NRL sides have long ago identified as a valuable recruiting pool.
And while NZRU chief executive Steve Tew acknowledged his organisation was committed to ''winning Auckland'' as part of their ongoing strategies, he told reporters on a conference call yesterday that his organisation would not stoop to the NRL's level of operating.
During an at-times heated discussion over his organisation's responsibilities with the Blues franchise, Tew was typically aggressive when quizzed over the pillaging of the Auckland region's first XV competition by NRL sides, including the Warriors.
''No question we see the wider Auckland city as an important part of our future strategy,'' said Tew.
''It's now a super city, and there is a unique challenge because the Warriors and to a lesser extent the Breakers are in their face and competition.
''You've got 90 per cent of New Zealand's population growth in the next 15 years going to be in Auckland, and a high percentage of that is going to be either Pacific Island or Asian.
''You've got a lot of things we need to get our head around, and we will be doing some very careful thinking around how we ensure we win Auckland, like most businesses in this country need to do.''
But that would not extend to playing the Aussie invaders at their own game, Tew confirmed.
''The recruitment of young rugby players to league is quite a challenging issue for us. But we will not embark on the practice of enticing parents to sign kids at an early age for a paltry amount of money or, even worse, things in kind.
''We have a greater commitment to providing an environment where kids have a long-term future in our game.
"That will mean we will lose some kids because the nature of the social, economic and demographic background is they are likely to take the small return more quickly.''
The NZRU boss said the Auckland region had some of the best schools rugby sides in the world and it was vital players be kept in the sport.
''But we can't and won't enter into a contracting war with young kids who are still at school.
''Our competitive advantage is if you play our game you have the opportunity to travel the world, and play a game that will lead you to an All Black jersey. But if you go play rugby league in Australia that's what you are going to do.''
Tew confirmed the Blues' woes was a serious issue for the NZRU which was strongly involved both in the appointment process of the new coach, and a review of the organisation which would follow.
He confirmed there were ''over a dozen'' applicants for the coaching job, including some you ''would be reasonably confident should get an interview''.
Tew said filling the job was a priority given the ongoing need to recruit and re-sign players.
After getting particularly prickly with one reporter over suggestions the Blues organisation had become a closed shop, Tew said there was a ''fair amount of speculation about the Blues doing everything wrong without a lot of specifics''.
In other news, Tew confirmed the proposed Anzac fixture mooted by John O'Neill was problematic from a timing point of view; work had started on the NZRU's side of the new collective bargaining agreement which would come up for discussion later in the year; he gave a tick to the new June tours which had hit the right note in all three Sanzar countries; and he confirmed the NZRU would not be getting involved in any proposals to build new stadiums.
Tew also gave the subject of the speculated departure of All Black and Chiefs star midfielder Sonny Bill Williams back to league a nifty sidestep.
The NZRU boss said he had ''pretty good idea'' what Williams' plans were but they would not be discussed until the player chose to publicise his intentions.
''We've put our position on the table for Sonny Bill and [manager] Khoder [Nasser] has respected that.
"They've made whatever decision they've made in the full knowledge of what we could do and wanted to do.
"Unfortunately we're bound by his desire to announce that on a timeline that suits him, not us.''
Australian media continue to insist Williams is bound for a one-year deal with the Roosters in the NRL - a contract that would also allow him to take up a $1 million rugby sabbatical in Japan and to continue to box.
Tew admitted if Williams did go it would be a ''great loss'' but he refused to label the code jumper a problem child.
''Our interaction with Sonny Bill and Khoder has been consistently robust and honest, and I've got absolutely no complaints,'' said Tew.