Dannevirke Ross Shield rugby team's head coach Gerard McKay has accused tournament winners Napier of starving players to meet the 56kg weight limit.
"This isn't sour grapes because we couldn't beat Napier. I'm concerned about the safety of players," McKay said as he reflected on the 114th edition of the Heinz-Wattie's sponsored event, the showpiece Hawke's Bay Primary Schools rugby, which was played in Dannevirke last week.
The Napier camp has denied the allegations.
McKay claimed two Napier players vomited regularly on the first night they were billeted in Dannevirke after dinner because it was their first decent meal for a fortnight, after starving to meet the limit.
McKay said he didn't hear of such cases this year but, last year he heard players from some city teams had to be hooked up to drips in hospital to recover after drastic weight loss for the tournament.
"We had 60 players to choose from for our team. I understand the Napier coaches have 23 schools in their area. Surely out of that number they can pick players closer to the weight limit so they don't have to starve players so much," McKay stressed.
"We had a couple of players who had to lose 200 grams and were happy to do the work. We also had a player who was quite happy to miss out because he didn't want to do the work. From what I hear it wasn't uncommon for players from the Napier side and other city teams to drop up to 6kg."
Napier assistant coach Paul Teddy said none of the players in his team had to drop more than 2kg during the final month before tournament weigh in.
"We could have picked a couple of players, one who was 64kg and another who was 62kg, but we didn't want to go down that track. It's not worth it and those who did have to lose weight were all signed off by a doctor ... a proper process was followed."
Teddy pointed out one of the two players McKay was referring to had drunk two litres of orange juice and only had a bit of food with it. This player, like the teammate he was staying with, were vomiting more because they were homesick.
"Neither player had been away from home that often," Teddy said.
Central manager John Kilmister put a remit into last week's tournament managers' meeting calling for teams not to select players over 60kg two months out from the tournament.
While the three country teams, Central, Dannevirke and Wairoa, voted in favour, the three city teams, Napier, Hastings West and Hastings East, didn't, so it wasn't introduced.
"I've finished my four-year stint as manager and we've had some great times. One of my boys did three years and the other two did two each. Unhealthy weight loss is my biggest concern with the tournament," Kilmister said.
"Two years ago, when we beat one of the city teams in Wairoa, we were the biggest team at the weigh in. We weren't the biggest team by the end of the week."
Kilmister has heard of players dropping up to 12kg to play in the tournament and some of them had ongoing effects during the following year.
"It's not uncommon for players who have lost a lot of weight to be back up to 65kg by the end of the tournament," he added.
Secretary-treasurer of the Hawke's Bay Primary Schools Rugby committee, Erroz Hantz, said his committee organises three shared weigh ins over several weeks before each tournament.
"Any weight loss is monitored by a doctor, who states whether or not a player is fit to play and puts it in writing."
Hantz said if Kilmister's suggestion was carried out it would involve too much work with more involvement for doctors and the police would also have to be involved.
"We are concerned about the welfare of the children which is why it is a weight-restricted tournament and not an open weight tournament," he added.
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