Taranaki club rugby players could cash in on rugby union's financial woes

More Taranaki club rugby players are likely to be part of the Taranaki Bulls Mitre 10 championship squad in 2019.
STUFFMore Taranaki club rugby players are likely to be part of the Taranaki Bulls Mitre 10 championship squad in 2019.

Hit hard by Yarrow Stadium’s two stands being declared earthquake prone and the team’s dismal performance on the field, Taranaki Rugby has a forecasted deficit of $807,000 for 2018.

It has already requested the New Plymouth District Council waive their $150,000 annual rental fee for the venue to claw back some cash.

To save further costs the Bulls representative squad looked set to rely more on local club players instead of contracting players from outside the union.

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The Mitre 10 squad included 26 fully contracted players on salaries of between $55,000 and $21,000.

The Taranaki Bulls had a dismal 2018 Mitre 10 Cup and were relegated to the Championship division.
SIMON O’CONNOR/STUFFThe Taranaki Bulls had a dismal 2018 Mitre 10 Cup and were relegated to the Championship division.

Taranaki Rugby chief executive Jeremy Parkinson said in previous years the union’s budget allowed for contracting players at the top of the salary tier.

Now the framework had changed and the union would be forced to work in the bottom tier, and offer minimum contracts, he said.

Former club rugby player Dave Dent wants pride brought back into representing the province.
SIMON O’CONNOR/STUFFFormer club rugby player Dave Dent wants pride brought back into representing the province.

However Northland Rugby chief executive Alistair McGinn​ said using local club players had proved to be the “right thing to do” for the Far North union.

Northland made the semi-finals of the championship in 2018 after chalking up 19 losses in a row between 2014 and 2016.

Recruiting local players was now a “core philosophy” of the union, McGinn said.

“It is central to our cultural and player development…it was a necessity.”

McGinn said the union had to pay players less than other unions to run the organisation in a “rational manner.”

“We don’t go outside the pay structure to get the players we need, and we identify players to fill gaps in future years.

“It’s not a quick fix but it was the right thing to do.”

Former Taranaki hooker, and Inglewood premier coach Lyall Bunn says the union should use club players where it can.
SIMON O’CONNOR/Fairfax NZFormer Taranaki hooker, and Inglewood premier coach Lyall Bunn says the union should use club players where it can.

Former Taranaki hooker, and Inglewood premier coach Lyall Bunn, said selecting a balanced team was important.

“All players need the opportunity to play at a higher level and where we can we should use local club players. But you owe it to them to have a core of experienced players around them to be competitive,” he said.

Any skill weaknesses in club players can be identified, and can be improved on by coaching after selection, he said.

Restoring pride in club players should be the focus for the union, former Eltham senior club player, and school coach, David Dent said.

“We need to put the pride back into the amateur level of the game and make it a big deal for these young guys, who may not ever be All Blacks, to represent the province,” he said.

Dent said the region still had the resources and player depth to be competitive on the field.

“There’s no doubt there is enough talented rugby players in Taranaki but many have walked away from the game.

“For the past 5-6 seasons the union has sent a clear message to club players they were not considered good enough.”

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