9 Jun 2024

Canterbury schoolboy rugby rule slammed as 'elitist', 'self-serving'

6:24 am on 9 June 2024
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Photo: 123rf.com

A bid to exclude combined schools' 1st XV rugby teams from the local competition's top grade is "elitist" and "self-serving", principals say.

The schoolboy competition has proposed combined teams from Canterbury schools who do not have enough players to field a whole team only play in the lower championship division from next year.

The move is part of a set of proposed changes to the competition after administrators set up a working group to review its structure and format.

But principals at Darfield High School and Christchurch Boy's High School have slammed the proposed change.

Darfield High School principal Andy England said no explanation or rationale had been provided for the move,

"I believe there may be an elitist element to it, whether it's intentional or not, the effect is elitist," he said.

"The teams remaining will all be boys' schools, or private schools and yes you could argue other schools could get there but it makes it extremely hard."

The Miles Toyota competition includes teams from South and Mid Canterbury, Canterbury, and Tasman. It is split into two competitions, a premiership and championship.

Some of the participating schools include Nelson College, Christchurch Boy's High School, Christ's College, St Bede's College and St Andrew's College.

Nearly 100 All Blacks have been educated at these schools alone.

The competition is administered by the Canterbury Rugby Union (CRU) but is mostly run and governed by the schools themselves.

Darfield High School, alongside Rolleston College, Lincoln High School and Ellesmere College, feed into the Selwyn Schools Combined 1st XV, the only combined side in this year's premiership grade.

"What's really disappointing is that we've created a model which allows more equitable access to the best level of rugby, and it's not being allowed for some really unknown reason," England said.

Christchurch Boys' High School

Christchurch Boys' High School is known for its rugby pedigree. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Christchurch Boys' High School headmaster Nic Hill said the plan to exclude combined teams showed some schools were putting "reputation and marketing" ahead of the best interests of students.

"It's 100 percent elitism," he said.

"We want a game that creates decent humans, it shouldn't be a marketing tool."

He said it was ultimately a case of self-interest for the decision-makers.

"There's been this arms race in schoolboy rugby for too long and it has not been healthy.

"In Christchurch, significant schools do not have 1st XV programmes anymore simply because of private school scholarships."

England said schools in rural areas would continue to lose students needlessly to the bigger Christchurch schools.

"That means for those families uprooting, it means finding the money to enable that to happen," he said.

"And that means they don't continue rugby within their own community and continue with their own friends and whānau around them.

"It gives another message that you have to move to these schools in order to get what you want."

In a statement, the CRU said participating schools selected a working group "representing the views and opinions of all schools" following the 2023 competition.

The group then reviewed the competition's "structure, format, and governance".

"This review sought feedback from the principals (or their nominees) of the schools currently involved in the competition.

"All decisions were made based on the majority views of the principals and not based on the views of any individual in the working group.

"As a result of this thorough review, a set of competition guidelines has been proposed for the 2025 competition and beyond."

The CRU said the proposed changes were still under review, and were subject to "ongoing consultation, ensuring that all principals are informed and involved in the process".

"Canterbury Rugby's intention is to ensure quality experiences for all participants in all grades across the region."

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