After 10 years of providing an authentic Kiwi rugby experience to people from all over the world, Inside Running Academy has been forced to close its doors.
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It was an emotional decision for founder Mike Rogers but with New Zealand borders shut for the foreseeable future, it was out of his control.
"Ninety-five per cent of our business was players from overseas coming into New Zealand to experience the life of a professional player in our environment. The concerning thing is the sort of timeframes we're talking about, who knows what it's going to look like?," Rogers said.
"If we knew the borders would be open in three or four months time we could definitely continue being able to afford to pay for facilities and staff to get us through to that point but all indications are it's going to be longer than that.
"The only way to protect our ability to reopen in the future is not to go broke in the meantime."
He said he had a hardworking team of staff and having to let them know about the closure of the Mount Maunganui-based academy was one of the hardest things he had to do. He was also grateful to the Bay of Plenty rugby community who always welcomed the overseas players with open arms, providing accommodation and helping to create memories at the different rugby clubs in the region.
"I guess people sort of underestimate the human effect of this sort of thing. For me, having to sit down with staff and tell them they no longer have employment, it was really, really difficult. Having to tell players who had signed up that they couldn't come over and live their dream was really difficult as well."
The closure also represents a blow to the local economy. The development camp pricing ranged from $4700 for four weeks to $12,840 for 12 weeks.
Rogers said the economic contribution extended beyond those payments though.
"If you look at the last five years, our average turnover as a business was about half a million dollars a year. I reckon people were spending at least that much again on top of that.
"Obviously, they'd have spending money and stuff like that but quite often their parents would come out as well and rent an apartment in the Mount or travel around the central North Island. The value to the local economy around that stuff is quite significant - we introduced heaps of people to New Zealand who had never been here before."
In 2009, Rogers was playing rugby for Tauranga Sports when a friend sent three Portuguese players to play for the club. Seeing how much they enjoyed the experience inspired him to start the academy.
In the 10 years since there have been many highlights with more than 500 overseas players spending time at the academy.
"In 2010 we set the business up and we had only 14 players in the first year. Last year we had 157 so it's grown significantly and it's been a real cool journey to be a part of. The development over that time has been awesome.
"It's really awesome to see the number of players who came through our academy that have gone on to higher honours. In that 2010 year we had Pingi Talaapitaga who went on to play for the Steamers and Highlanders - he's now one of our coaches.
"Keepa Mewett, who was captain of the Steamers and a Māori All Black, came through the academy and a whole heap of other guys who went on to higher honours."
The scale of how far the academy had reached hit Rogers after he announced the business' closure and emails started flying in from players and their parents all over the world.
"I've received hundreds of messages and emails, some awesome stories from people who have been here and some great feedback from parents that they probably didn't think was necessary to give me prior. That has been really heartwarming but doesn't take away from the fact that we are closing and people lose their jobs."
Englishman Sean Massey, the father of former academy attendee Henry Massey, was one of those who emailed Rogers to say how sorry he was to hear about the closure. In his email Sean told Rogers he reflected "on the great job you did with Henry whilst he was with you in 2019", and wanted to thank him for it, describing Rogers as a "great role model" who taught his son "how to conduct himself in both rugby and life".
"Henry loved his time at the academy and has regaled us with wonderful stories of his experiences."