Passion for grassroots rugby and a push from the top for it to grow bigger was what motivated Ajit Balasingham to get on to the New Zealand Rugby Board.
The Whāngarei-based former chairman of Northland Rugby Union last week beat Wellington's Ian Potter in a secret ballot for one position on the NZR board and feels pretty humbled to get that far.
"I owe it to my peers who elected me on it so they obviously have confidence that I can get the job done. It was a two-horse race for one job and we had to campaign quite hard to convince the provincial unions that I was able to deliver."
The Sri Lanka-born served on the Northland Rugby Union Board for 12 years and together with his business acumen, he felt confident to take the leap and make a difference particularly at the grassroots level.
Balasingham said the challenges of being an NZR board member were bigger as it required dealing with 26 provincial unions rather than one but at a different level.
"My view was I've done my dash at Northland rugby and left it in a very good state and I still had more to give to grassroots rugby and if I can get on the NZ Rugby Board and push that from the top and make a difference, then I want to do that.
"I am very passionate about grassroots rugby and what we're trying to do in Northland through Rugby for Life is about helping clubs grow their numbers, help players, give them the skills and employment opportunities and work with providers who can help them."
Issues affecting grassroots rugby, he said, were more than looking at the senior level and was about having strong clubs, volunteers and resources around people so they could attract better players.
Creating opportunities for people living in mostly rural areas that worked with grassoroots rugby was also important, he said.
"I am talking about part-time people who can drive these deliverables. We're putting together a three-year plan to be able to do that. I want to take the concept to other provincial unions. They love the idea but it all takes time. That's what made me drive my ambition to get on NZR board."
The much-publicised Silver Lake deal which involves the sale of 12.5 per cent of future commercial income to the US fund manager for $387m would help grassroots rugby in Northland as much as it would other provincial unions, he reckons.
The provincial unions unanimously agreed to the sale last week but the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association has not as yet.
"It's a good opportunity. Every opportunity comes with challenges and as long as we know what those challenges are, we can overcome them. Silver Lake deal gives you a bunch of money that we can use in a very smart way into grassroots.
"You just got to work through the issues, where is the best outcome for this money. Just like what we did with seed money for Pohe Island we got some seed money and then we went to different bodies and started applying and telling them what we're trying to do and suddenly we got all the money to build a facility," Balasingham said, referring to the NRU's new facility taking shape at Pohe Island.
"So if you have a bunch of money at Silver Lake sitting there and you're not using the capital, use that money to help clubs to grow.
Balasingham left the NRU board at the end of November.
He's one of just a few Northlanders who have been elected to the NZR board over the years. Andrew Golightly was the last NZR board member from Northland prior to Balasingham's appointment.