Sunday 13 May 2007

Kiwis fly north for the coming season

Carl Hayman, Chris Jack, Aaron Mauger, Paul Tito, Josh Blackie, Clarke Dermody and Byron Kelleher. All prominent players in New Zealand, all full internationals (I think) and all coming to ply their trade in the northern hemisphere next season. On the face of it, this neither shocking nor revolutionary. Southern hemisphere rugby players have been heading north in the twilight of their careers for years, enticed by the promise of more money. What is somewhat worrying for the NZRFU is that a lot of those players are still quite young and only just coming into their prime.

Hayman, Jack, Mauger and Kelleher are key members of the current All Blacks side and at the moment most of them are relatively secure in their respective positions too. For the Kiwis, losing this many young and influential could be disastrous if it wasn't for the depth of New Zealand rugby, the All Blacks ability to produce fresh talent is infuriating and you can expect more youth to rise to fill the considerable void left by these migrating Kiwis.

This is all well and good but this batch of emigrants to the north is the first to feature a considerable amount of current All Blacks. If the NZRFU fail to react to this threat posed by the big money European clubs what's to stop whole future generations of All Blacks heading to England or France? Top All Blacks earn £150,000 a year in New Zealand in comparison to potential contracts ranging from £200,000 to £350,000 in England. The simple fact i that te NZRFU cannot keep the players in New Zealand, they do not have the cash. Well actually, that's not true, they have cash reserves of £28.5 million but that is being retained to pay for the world cup in 2011 which is to be held in New Zealand. Combined this frozen asset with the fact that the NZRFU reported a loss of £1.8 million last year and you're looking at an organisation potentially on the brink.

Whilst this player migration is not completely confined to New Zealand, there is a far greater exodus of players from the island of the long cloud than there is from Sud Afrika or Australia. This whole horrid scenario has thrown into light the ironic financial weakness of the NZRFU and has raised questions in the southern hemisphere of encouraging northern hemisphere players to the Super 14 and whether or not ex-pats should be allowed to continue to play internationally or not.

At the time of writing the All Black players already mentioned had confirmed their deals, there are a number who are still in talks with northern hemisphere clubs. They include; Luke McAlister, Rico Gear, Anton Oliver, Doug Howlett, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Ma’a Nonu and Jimmy Cowan

[and yes I do appreciate that kiwi birds are small birds incapable of sustained flight but I couldn't think of a better title]

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