The Roar
The Roar


NZRU invites rugby league to takeover

Roar Guru
27th September, 2011
3226 Reads

The Warriors’ success in making the NRL final is simply the result of a long process whereby the NRZU considers the threat of rugby league irrelevant.

More and more league scouts plunder the young of Auckland, the crowds and exposure increase, the talk of a second franchise is heard. This generation alone produces players of the quality of Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall, stolen from under the sleepy nose of the NZRU.

With powerful media and financial backing, the covetous NRL knows that New Zealand, with its rich talent pool, is there for the taking. And what exactly do the NZRU do to combat this?

They behave with the self-assured complacency of landed gentry, assuming no ambitious enterprise could ever threaten their position.

This terrifying laissez-faire mentality and deluded sense of security is exemplified in the following absurd scenario.

To provide a crowd for a Super team, an area should have 300,000-400,000 minimum population, such as:

Waikato – 409,000.
Wellington – 482, 000.
Canterbury – 565,000.

Even Otago is thought to provide enough with 207,000, although there are 94,000 more in neighbouring Southland to draw on.


So what about Auckland? How many teams should the largest city in New Zealand provide? The population is 1,462,000.

That means three teams would have almost 500,000 each and indeed as many as four teams would have 365,000.

And how many teams are there? One!

In the ITM Cup the area is neatly divided into three areas: Auckland, Counties-Manukau, North Harbour.

Why are there not three corresponding teams in Super Rugby given the large potential fan base and the ready made existence of clubs?

Someone might argue that there are not the players to fill them, but New Zealand has considerably more playing talent than any other country in the world, and if Australia are supposed to be able to fill five teams, why can’t New Zealand fill seven, without even considering the added strategies employed by the Melbourne Rebels such as northern hemisphere imports and league converts?

(Bay of Plenty has a 275,000 population and Manawatu-Wanganui 231,000, but neither area is so imminently threatened by league nor involves such large numbers as Auckland. Indeed, South Auckland is the immediate priority over North Harbour.)


The reason this is so critically important is that the vast majority of league players come from South Auckland, and the NZRU, with only one team to cover the whole city, is effectively asking league to come in and takeover.

With three teams, the vast number of scouts, their eyes trained (by the NZRU with any luck) on South Auckland, and the tripling of the number of squad places, would allow union to launch a massive counter-attack and attempt to kill off league in New Zealand altogether.

The NZRU, however, couldn’t seem to care less about league striding impudently through its territory, though, and perhaps would happily allow it to come and take what it wants.

Finally, New Zealand suffers from a significant shortage of capital and sponsorship. It’s worth considering finding super wealthy private owners for some clubs to try and remedy this.

Men such as Mohammed Boudjellal provide much of the funding and sustainability for European club rugby, and while there may not be so many in New Zealand, even one or two would mean a large investment of money in the game.

If Steve Tew and the NZRU were ever confronted with the kind of thoughts expressed in this article they would doubtless claim that league can never threaten the permanent supremacy of rugby in New Zealand.

How long before that entitled sense of confidence begins to ring hollow?