I'm writing this from a blustery stand, overlooking a wind-swept hockey turf nestled in Hamilton's surburbia. It's tournament week for secondary schools, which means thousands of teenagers have criss-crossed our nation to play in a variety of week-long tournaments on behalf of their schools. My sister is representing the might hockey powerhouse that is Onehunga High School, and they are currently losing one-nil to an equally impressive team from Reporoa.
Watching these girls reminds me of our outstanding Black Sticks women who came so close to securing an elusive Olympic medal at the recent London Games.
And in a round-about way it has got me thinking about what the future holds for the young people of Auckland in terms of their sporting endeavours.
It seems a travesty to me that so many of our youth live in areas devoid of top quality sporting facilities. To the best of my knowledge there are a handful of all-weather rugby pitches, in places like Remuera, Newmarket and on the North Shore. I have no doubt this is a huge benefit to those living nearby. But last time I checked, our NRL squads and NPC teams weren't bursting with blockbusting second rowers and wingers from central Auckland.
Suburbs like Otara, Mangere and west Auckland's Te Atatu South seem to be where the scouts are all heading.
So what is a blight on our city planners is the lack of lack of investment in these areas to build all-weather or fast draining pitches with lighting. I coached a rugby team in Mangere last year which was just bursting with talent.
I had props who could step like wingers and drop goals like Dan Carter, but their development was severely hindered by not only my poor coaching abilities but the number of trainings and games that had to be cancelled due to poorly maintained grounds.
But a trip up the motorway on an evening when our training was cancelled would reveal hundreds of burgeoning youngsters at the College Rifles club reaping the benefits of their club's new rubber matting pitches.
I'm not saying this central Auckland club shouldn't have this luxury, but rather if we are to continue to be a leader in rugby and league we need make sure the talent-bursting suburbs of south Auckland also have these grounds.
This will not only have the added benefit of keeping kids in sports and away from the ills of alcohol and drugs, but also increase the chances of future Sonny Bills and Kieran Reads being discovered.
Graham's Big Blue?
Talkback has been awash with outrage at Sir Graham Henry helping out 'arch-rivals' Argentina with their Rugby Championship campaign. But I take the view that what's good for world rugby is probably good for New Zealand rugby.
It will do us no good if rugby becomes like league or netball, being dominated by a select few Anglo-Saxon teams. If this game is to become a truly global marketable product, then we need the competitions they play in to be meaningful and competitive.
And therefore nations like Argentina need all the help they can get, so bravo, NZRU, for allowing Henry his dalliance with the Pumas.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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