The true costs of injuries to star players was revealed yesterday at the New Zealand Rugby Union's annual meeting, with medical costs accounting for a significant chunk of the national body's record loss.

The NZRU's loss for the year ending December 31, 2009, was $15.9 million, the largest in its history.

It was made up of an operating loss of $9.5 million and Rugby World Cup-related losses of $6.4 million.

It was set against a operating budget of $700,000 for the year, a figure that chief executive Steve Tew conceded, in hindsight, "was extremely optimistic".

Of the operating loss, $2.7 million was attributable to injured players.

The union budgeted $1 million for the year to cover medical costs and the costs of replacement players, but with high-profile injuries to experienced All Blacks including Ali Williams, Keven Mealamu, Richie McCaw, Richard Kahui and Luke McAlister, that cost blew out to $3.7 million, a budget overrun of $2.7 million.

Of those, Williams has almost certainly been the biggest anchor on the budget, with two long-term Achilles injuries.

He is still paid at elite All Black level due to the retainer system, while the NZRU also has to pay one more player to replace him.

"One of the things that keeps our players attracted to playing in New Zealand is the employment environment we create and guaranteed retainers, if you like, for that 12-month period is part of the deal," Tew said.

"Yes, it's expensive, but it's also part of our player retention strategy."

Chairman Jock Hobbs said the organisation was looking at the way it structured its ACC and insurance programmes to make sure it was getting the most cost-effective relief for injured players.

At the moment the responsibility for wages sits with the union, though it does get benefits in terms of access to treatment and high-cost medical procedures such as scans.

The other major catalyst for the blow-out was a budget deficit of $4.2 million on domestic and foreign match income. The bulk of this came from a lower than expected return on the Bledisloe Cup test in Tokyo.

The test was set up as a three-way enterprise between the NZRU, the Australian Rugby Union and a Japanese marketing company, but the venture fell short of expectations.

Doubling the pain was the fact the proposed match in Denver, a match which was never able to be delivered, and the return that had been guaranteed from that game, was a big factor behind the NZRU's optimistic forecast.

Hobbs said the loss was extremely disappointing, but he also urged stakeholders to view the loss against the backdrop of a global economic recession and take into account a large portion of the deficit - $4.2 million - was made up of unrealised foreign exchange losses on reserves held in pounds sterling.

Those losses had to be reported on the books in accordance with accounting requirements, but the transactions are fully hedged and should be offset by gains in 2011.

Adding a dollop of good cheer to proceedings was the announcement of a Sanzar broadcasting agreement through to 2015. The agreement is valued at US$437 million, a 35 per cent increase on the current deal of US$323 million. While Tew said the slice of the pie going to New Zealand would remain under wraps, the deal was effectively 28 per cent better for New Zealand than the last one.

The NZRU is not forecasting surpluses for the foreseeable future, though 2009 is expected to be the low-water mark.

In other business, Sir Wilson Whineray was appointed patron and Graham Mourie won a fourth term on the board, holding off a challenge from Hawkes Bay's Richard Hunt by 51 votes to 38 to retain the Central Zone position.

Southland chairman Graham Cooney takes over from Marlborough's Mark Peters for the Southern Zone position and Christopher Doig, a former New Zealand Cricket chief executive, replaced Bill Thurston as an independent member.