Lochore says innovation rather than amalgamation the key for club rugby
All Blacks legend Brian Lochore has urged clubs to only look at amalgamation as a last resort.
The former All Blacks captain and coach said clubs needed to be creative to ensure they remained viable in the world of professional rugby.
Lochore's former side, Masterton Rugby Club, is among a long list of clubs throughout the country which have turned to each another to ensure their survival in the future.
The 76-year-old said he understood that some clubs had little option, but believed it needed to be the final option.
"Instead of working hard to making a good team, it is sort of an easy way out," he said.
"I have never been a great fan of amalgamation but in saying that I know some clubs need to or have to, more particularly in the rural areas of New Zealand where the numbers are not there.
"I have always felt, even way back when I was playing, that every merger you just half the numbers."
Back in 1996 when Masterton joined with rivals Red Star, Lochore had stepped away from his administration roles within the club.
Masterton had hit hard financial times and were in debt, but had some good facilities.
"Initially it sounds like a hell of a good idea, but here were two clubs with a senior A and senior B team each," Lochore said.
"Then they went to just one senior A and one senior B team and now they are not in the competition."
Back in his playing days, Lochore said his club's good financial standing was because they branched outside of rugby.
"We leased a farm and one of the club members ran it to bulk our expenses. We did a lot of innovative stuff to make our financials strong," he said.
He believed the reason a lot of country clubs were still managing to battle on were because there were not as many distractions as there were for members of the city clubs.
That highlighted the need for city clubs to make sure it was easy for players to be involved.
He said the role of club rugby in New Zealand could not be under-stated.
"I believe strongly in club rugby, I believe it is the backbone of rugby in this country and if we don't have it, we will die. But we have to work at it and the rugby union have to work at it. It can't be done on its own."
But he was confident its importance was not lost on New Zealand Rugby.
"I think they are very conscience of needing to keep making club rugby strong," he said. "It is a question of highlighting it really.
"Unfortunately very few All Blacks play club rugby unless they are coming back from an injury, even the Super [Rugby] guys may only get three or four games in a season, if that. That really makes it hard for club rugby to be highlighted. If you highlight something you get people wanting to play it, but if you only have a few spectators, people don't worry."