The score is 5-0 between Wanganui Rugby Football Union life member Brian Vaughan and Rugby New Zealand.

The former chairman of WRFU won a major battle while on the national union board changing the constitution and evening out the power play between the strong metropolitan unions and heatland grass roots unions.

That try was scored back in the 1980s after Vaughan secured the support of then board newcomer and former All Black great Kel Tremaine.

Today, with the support of at least three other notable Wanganui rugby identities, Vaughan is attempting to foster debate on how best to halt the rapidly declining number of male players nationwide.


Vaughan, along with Dan Anderson (life member WRFU), Mike Donaghue (NZ Marist executive, life member Marist Rugby Clubs) and Dick Hearn (life member WRFU), has fleshed out a plan to alter the infrastructure of New Zealand rugby and halt the decline.

"Recently the WRFU released the current statistics of playing members throughout the 27 unions here in New Zealand,' Vaughan said.

"Male rugby players have reduced and there seems to be a further downward spiral in our clubs membership nationwide. The Heartland competition is the last bastion of our amateur code here in New Zealand.

"If you speak to administrators in those provinces you will find the rapid decline of playing numbers, clubs going into recess, closing or trying to amalgamate because of the player shortage or movement to other centres for employment, educational training or other recreational activities. This is not a myth, or a dream, but the general landscape of today's rugby climate in Heartland New Zealand."

Vaughan said the 12 provinces have to have a structure to re-establish the national game in rural and semi metro New Zealand.

"The NZRFU, our parent body, have to accommodate and implement a change to the political climate to sustain the co-called amateur code here in New Zealand. The Heartland players need a competition to balance their abilities and a further pathway to compete at a higher level that will grow their personal skills and their playing abilities."

The Whanganui tight four will submit four options for the NZRFU to consider and implement to sustain this level of rugby in Heartland New Zealand.

Their plan will be subimitted in the coming weeks and the four are hoping it will also create robust debate throughout the country.


A. Clubs
"The clubs that are based in every geographical area need to be revitalised and re- energised with a national policy to recruit and retain players of all age groups.

"The clubs should have access to ALL school age players from primary through to secondary schools. That would mean the clubs would have the responsibility to grow, coach and retain these players through this age group (5-18 years).

"At the moment clubs have a peak membership through the primary/secondary levels (year 1-8) and then a radical decline!! Club retention levels is paramount at this early age.

"This change would also give the clubs access for parents to become involved right through the educational age group (5-18) as coaches, managers and club administrators.

This would benefit the clubs recruitment of officials which is also a challenge every year throughout New Zealand.

"The fall off of players commences at the junior secondary level and that is why there must be an action plan at the years 9 and 10 levels to sustain the interest and the growth of our clubs."

B. Representative Teams

"We believe that a more visionary pathway has to be created for these players from Heartland to a promotion/relegation system with the Mitre 10 Provinces so that our players are experiencing the challenges of the higher level to enhance their personal skills and game management. They need intense competition to create their respective pathways."

C. Tours

"New Zealand Union should invite all countries who need help with education and training in their game to tour Heartland New Zealand every year and play the Heartland provinces with a test match against New Zealand Heartland.

"Teams like Germany, Romania, Russia, Namibia, Peru, Brazil, Georgia etc would be ideal to experience a touring team as well as the financial benefits to enhance their balance sheet.

"Years ago, before professionalism came to the fore, provinces like Heartland used to be able to budget their financial obligations based on a touring team travelling through New Zealand.

"Whanganui used to have Fiji, Tonga, Romania and yes, even the Lions/Australia. It was always on a 4/5 year rotation and this gave clubs and provinces a major input into their promotion and future planning of their game."

D. Challenge Cup/Shied

"A Ranfurly Shield challenge should be played every Saturday, both home and away to increase the so called "amateur game" to a more competitive level for the players benefit."