It was my misfortune over the weekend to catch up with my third cousin thrice removed (once forcibly), Allan (Al) Blacksrule from Gordonton. And did he let rip over Rippa Rugby and the North Harbour Union. There’s not a lot of reasoning with Al when he’s in full flight with the spittle flying in all directions. But I had a go. Here are some excerpts from our discussion…
AB: (Expletive deleted) P.C. bulls…t, no tackle nonsense. I took one in the front tooth in my first junior game, but it made me hungrier and taught me that life’s not easy.
I: What’s junior rugby got to do with life not being easy? The North Harbour thing is big picture stuff. The number of junior kids playing rugby in the cities up here is falling pretty drastically. Can’t a Union try a progressive step to nullify that? Rippa Rugby’s been around for yonks- all Harbour are really doing is extending it a couple of grades further up.
AB: It’s bloody nonsense. What would Colin Meads be thinking? He would have tackled a fence post if it had moved.
I: In Colin Meads’ day in Te Kuiti, for boys there was only rugby, rugby and rugby. An X-Box was probably a beer crate. Rugby has to be clever and evolve with the times. It needs to keep relevant to keep kids in the sport. And by the way, you still have to effect a tackle in Rippa Rugby to stop someone.
AB: Yeah, but kids need to be taught there are winners and losers, and if you want to get in rep teams then you need to work hard and tackle. That’s what life is.
I: Whatever, but the decision isn’t about making or not making rep teams- that will come later in any case to those with talent who work hard and stay in the game. There’s even been All Blacks who didn’t make junior or even Under 16 or 18 rep teams. North Harbour’s angle is about keeping as many kids in rugby as possible and for as long as possible. And in a way, reclaiming a bit of school and junior rugby back from the claws of elitism- which can get quite ugly.
And with that, Al said he was off to the dunny to clear his head.
-The Spotter (firstname.lastname@example.org)