During the period 2007-2013 secondary school sport faced many challenges.
At the time, our 104 Auckland schools led the way in rewriting bylaws to address the behaviour of some of our schools who were selling a lemon to some talented young athletes and by doing so stripping leadership from some decile 1-5 schools.
Good on Kieran Read and Ofa Tu'ungufasi and their families for seeing the light and staying at Rosehill College and Mangere College respectively.
Us Kiwis are passionate about sport and this topic of poaching created robust debate in many settings. It was reassuring then to receive support from many quarters including print and television media and others who understood the answer to two simple questions:
1. What is the fundamental reason students attend school?
2. Is secondary school sport community sport or high-performance sport?
By and large we know the answer to question one is education, and by Sport New Zealand's own definition school sport was not high-performance sport but pre pre-elite at best. The outgoing Sport NZ chief executive Peter Miskimmin should know this.
In accepting the role at College Sport I knew full well the challenges ahead and that leadership was required if I was to serve the principals of Auckland properly, especially with many claiming just as some are now that the horse had bolted.
My first pillar of support was our chairman and the former principal of Macleans College Byron Bentley, who hailed from Pahiatua and had enjoyed a stellar career as a teacher and athletics and rugby coach, notably at Western Heights High School in Rotorua.
Like many of the best principals, Bentley knew the secret to providing sporting opportunity for the masses of talented teenagers in all schools was not a modern high-performance environment, but something as simple and old fashioned as good coaching and mentoring.
We fought valiantly to arrest the slide of teacher participation in coaching and at one stage were making traction with the help of the late MP Allan Peachey, himself a former principal, and the former Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett. We started a Coachfirst initiative that would see young, unemployed graduates able to work in schools as coaches under the LAT ( limited authority) system, with obvious spinoffs for the teaching profession.
The second pillar of support was the College Sport constitution itself. Quite simply, member schools signed up to abide by the bylaws and regulations, thereby providing the ability for the governing body to sanction schools who acted contrary to the rules in its respective competitions.
In 2012-13 an interesting case study came out of the Sydney schools basketball competition when a group of schools banded together for the common good and decided to default fixtures against a college who had been implicated in a performance-enhancing drugs scandal. I smiled last year when some Auckland rugby schools had enough of a member school acting contrary to the spirit of their membership and considered the same.
Secondary School Sport NZ (NZSSSC) were reluctant to adopt our bylaws, claiming we had a unique Auckland problem. We were adamant the ship was in the harbour for other NZ schools and 10 years later the bylaws are embedded at NZSSSC level too.
Surely the NZSSSC had an obligation to consult with all its member principals about this contentious matter before signing with the New Zealand Sports Collective?
When my old cricketing friend, the late Martin Crowe, and the former CEO of Sky John Fellet wanted to televise 1st XV rugby, they did the right thing by first consulting with principals.
They asked good questions, like who owned school sport in a television context? The answer was pretty simple, individual schools did. They had pure intentions, wanting to televise matches for old boys of schools to be able to watch modern-day rivalries. They asked respectfully for individual schools permission.
Fellet explained to me the background to professional televised sport in the USA. It had come about via the large colleges (universities) who believed they had a significant mass market and crowd attendances that warranted selling the rights. When I outlined to John where school sport sat in the New Zealand sporting pathway he immediately understood ours was a different scenario.
He, too, was concerned about the increasing attendance of professional scouts at schoolboy sport.
Sport NZ and NSOs can't have it both ways, unfortunately, and clearly some Sport NZ staffers realise this. By endorsing or signing up with the entrepreneurial Collective and offering dollars to schools they are commercialising school sport and conflicting with all of their recent messaging.
How can a club or school or regional sports organisation be told to push the Balance is Better message when in the same space there is commercialisation of school sport?
The answers to the questions being asked are simple and staring at us all: schools own school sport.
Televising via the Collective conflicts with the messages Sport NZ are pushing.
Our teenagers attend school to gain the best education they can; sport is but a part of this education.
School sport is community sport by Sport NZ's own definition.
Last but not least, we have one of the most unique and successful school sporting systems in the world - unique because it has always allowed the cream to rise to the top wherever you go to school.
Just ask Ofa and Kieran.
Manoj Daji is a former CEO of College Sport and in 2014 received a QSM in the New Years Honours for services to sport and education.