It's been a heck of a week, with some tragic news that has pulled on the heart strings of so many around the county, and which has pushed issues such a secondary school rugby back into the distance of insignificance.

We have even had the serious Santa issues in Nelson - at least I think that was a serious issue? I'm not sure, it was complicated …

But the pulling of rugby talent into powerful secondary schools does seem to be getting worse – and it too is a complicated issue, with no apparent one correct solution.

At the heart of the debate locally was the lad from Napier Boys' High School, whom had supposedly been poached by Auckland's St Kentigern College.


Napier Boys' High principal has front footed the debate, saying the St Kentigern practices are alleged to be unethical. St Kentigern defended, by saying if they are within the rules, and that if they are providing better opportunities to the student, and if the student and his family want to come, then what is wrong with that.

Most have argued that St Kentigern's rationale is blatantly flawed, and that the education will be just as good at any other school. But what people may not be so aware of, is the variance in rugby development opportunities that are offered within various schools.

Even the Napier Boys' High principal, for example, with all the best intentions, might not really know the details and level of player development that is available at the competing school, or even specific details of his own schools programme (and neither should he, there is a wide range of other schooling matters to be dealing with).

And one key distinction people need to be aware of is the difference between being in a good rugby team who might be winning vs being in a good development programme (which may, or may not be also winning).

For example, a student may be in a winning team, but if he and his parents a greater all-round development programme offered somewhere else, and they feel their child can handle the change of environment, then shouldn't they be free to do what they feel is best for their kid?

It's important to also recognise that just because you are performing well in a great team at secondary school level, does not necessarily mean that you are also getting great development – the expert technical physical development and other components necessary to prepare and enable the young athlete to peak in two or three years time.

Ironically movement of players also happens at a local region level, with the same issues of leaving behind deflated players in the smaller school and killing off the game of rugby in those smaller centres. And the same would undoubtedly happen here in Hawke's Bay for example, where rightly or wrongly, players are attracted from the smaller schools to the likes of Napier Boys' High.

Some will say that is different as the smaller rural school doesn't offer any real development - well the flip side to that is that there are always some real benefits in staying in your own home, in your own town and all the support that comes with it.


And for the small rural communities, at the end of the day their rugby pool is evaporating, regardless of whether players are moving within the region to a Napier Boys, or further afield to a St Kentigern.

And what further complicates things, is that what is best for the individual, is not necessarily best for the school, and neither of those are either necessarily best for the game as a whole.

In an ideal world, all the kids would stay in their home town school so the greater game can thrive in the grass roots, and, they would still get optimal development opportunities and exposure to selectors – but apparently that just isn't possible?

- Marcus Agnew is the health and sport development manager at Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust and is also a lecturer in sports science at EIT.