College Sport: MAGS shuts gate on TV cameras

By Campbell Burnes

Mt Albert Grammar players attempt to tackle Taniela Tupou from Sacred Heart College. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Mt Albert Grammar players attempt to tackle Taniela Tupou from Sacred Heart College. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Mt Albert Grammar is again taking "a cautious approach" to having the TV cameras at televised home first XV fixtures in 2016.

While a Sky match is pencilled in for August 6 when MAGS host St Kentigern, there will again be no Auckland first XV TV cameras at MAGS' home games due to player welfare concerns. The Auckland Rugby Union's venture into live streaming of one 1A game weekly last year was a success in many respects, driving strong interest from viewers all around the world, but with a proliferation of agents from several codes sideline and growing expectations from parents, there are several factors to consider in welcoming TV cameras into a school.

MAGS principal Pat Drumm, who played for the St Peter's first XV in the 1980s, and who was the former president of the Auckland Secondary Schools Rugby Union, explains the rationale for continuing with the stance of his predecessor Dale Burden and MAGS director of rugby and first XV coach Geoff Moon.

"We're taking a cautious approach again. The product itself is very good. What Auckland Rugby have done is fantastic. They are very professional and relatively unobtrusive, but there are some of the unintended spinoffs and expectations around the coverage," says Drumm, adding that he is keen to maintain dialogue with the Auckland union as this is only a decision for this season at this stage.

There is heightened awareness among Auckland's 1A principals about the broader 1A coverage, with Sky having increased its number of 1A games in 2015.

"The discussion is certainly elevated among principals as to some of the consequences. It's a solution-based discussion. It's not brick wall stuff," Drumm says.

As yet no other school has adopted MAGS' stance. It was felt that some MAGS boys struggled to deal with some of the pressures of playing in front of the cameras, especially with the prominence of social media.

"There is a market for 1A rugby with big numbers attending and watching the streams. How schools benefit from that is quite a specialised discussion.

"It's about making sure the impact is a positive one and doesn't degenerate into something counter-productive ... we're a school. We're not going to the World Cup."

Drumm says he is not attempting to influence any other schools. Many are finding it challenging to keep education front and centre of discussions when boys can see a career pathway into rugby's professional ranks, exemplified by the prominence the TV cameras can give individuals.

Drumm says that the Auckland union was "extremely accommodating" when he met representatives on Friday.

"We are fully supportive of the decisions that each of the 1A schools make in regards to this project. We know that they have the best interests of their pupils, and the wider school community, at the heart of all their decision-making," says Auckland Rugby general manager-commercial Ross Halpin.

MAGS' last home (Sky) televised fixture was against King's in 2013, when Jack Goodhue, now with the Crusaders, starred.

- NZ Herald

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