OPINION: Mike Collins was a top prop, is a top bloke, and is now in the top job.
A quiet achiever to date, working away and keeping his own counsel, he is now positioned at the pointy end of the action as the new chief executive for Taranaki Rugby where there can be no burying himself in the depths of the scrum.
His every move will now be analysed, just as if he was a decision maker at first five-eighth.
Collins' captaincy in the past would have been a breeze compared with the requirements in his new position, as he leads the evolution of the game in the province where the role will entail many more and diverse decisions to be made, based on countless variables, and the pressure won't go away at the 80-minute mark.
So just what does need to be done in a small province where there is never enough money, playing numbers are dropping, rugby is dying in the rural areas, and the TRFU have just come out of a dismal representative season that has seen crowds staying away from the games?
Enthusiasm, energy and transparency will provide the basis. Running a lean and efficient organisation containing the best people, operating most effectively and providing quality, will be the next challenge. Within those parameters he must build on the strengths of the staff to create a motivated and active organisation.
These requirements are a necessity at every level and include the players, the TRFU board members, coaches, managers, medical staff and the every-day personnel.
A successful province, with good on-field success, is built on the fact the whole organisation is in it together and work as one.
This requires a strong leadership group lead by the chief executive.
The starting point will be to listen to what the stakeholders have to say, make sure you are sympathetic to their needs, communicate in a way that engenders support and, together, buy in to a vision that will be positive for all of Taranaki rugby.
A strength of Collins' appointment is that he has already immersed himself in club and representative rugby. He must have a good feel for the needs in each area of the game and he will know the importance of the sponsors' role through his involvement in the professional game.
Indeed, a close and considerate association with sponsors is an absolute must in the listening process.
The core obligations for rugby in Taranaki must start at the clubs, the schools and the communities. It is these areas that require most attention.
There needs to be an ongoing process each week in the junior area where drop-off rates are addressed, age-group players are monitored and developed, coaching improvements are facilitated and schools and clubs are plied with assistance.
As well, the TRFU need to offer a strong club competition that displays a genuine interest in local players. These actions will set strong foundations for community interest and involvement and assist in the generating of enthusiasm within the province.
Collins will also be required to oversee the smooth transition of Taranaki joining the Chiefs franchise.
One can only hope that there is a lot more to be gained than having two Super Rugby games each year, although this fact will certainly not be scoffed at.
Finding out more about our Chinese role must also be of some interest.
There is much to be done and exciting times are ahead. I'm sure everyone will join me in wishing Mike hearty congratulations and our best wishes.
Ian Snook has coached professionally for the past 25 years in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland, Japan and Italy.
- Taranaki Daily News
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