The Northern Region Rugby Council has felt the backlash of furious rugby fans after announcing the decision to scrap the 94-year-old Roller Mills tournament.

The under-13 weight restricted tournament was one of a number of provincial-based youth competitions set to be axed or altered by the NRRC, after a 12-month process evaluating the initiatives the NRRC manages.

Waikato Rugby shared the news on social media today, and the decision to scrap the tournament had not been well received.

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"All of that history and development, down the drain because people are getting soft and don't want their kids getting hurt," one comment said.

"Terrible decision-making. It will be to detriment of the people that could've been involved, the young people that could had their lives changed and enhanced and for the betterment of New Zealand Rugby," another said.

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Posted by Waikato Rugby on Thursday, 21 November 2019

According to the website rollermillsrugby.co.nz, the tournament is the second-oldest provincial rugby competition in New Zealand - behind only the Ranfurly Shield.

It has traditionally been the breeding ground of many an All Black - including Wilson Whineray, Colin Meads, Stan Meads, Don Clarke, Bryan Williams, Grant Fox, Michael Jones, Doug Howlett, Keven Mealamu, Stephen Donald, Sonny Bill Williams, Kieran Read, Jack Goodhue and Rieko Ioane.

As part of the review, the provincial-based under-14 and under-15 competitions would also no longer take place from 2020.

The NRRC's decision follows that of North Harbour rugby, who axed their junior representative programme for kids in a move aimed at changing the emphasis from performance to participation earlier in the year.

Chairman of the NRRC Neil Alton said the recommendation tabled was adopted with close to unanimous support.

"It's clear member provincial unions are keen to take a greater responsibility for retaining and developing its players in these age groups by providing opportunities for more players," Alton said.

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"The decision is backed by research showing early selection sends a negative message to young players who still have a number of years to reach their full physical and mental development potential. Rugby is a late specialisation sport".

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"The Roller Mills tournament, in particular, has a proud history and we'd like to acknowledge and thank the many volunteers who have worked tirelessly to deliver the tournament. It's our aim to give even more players and coaches a great experience, delivered in a different format, and within their own provincial union and communities."

Former All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams is a product of the Roller Mills tournament. Photo / Photosport
Former All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams is a product of the Roller Mills tournament. Photo / Photosport

Alton said two of the nine-member provincial unions decided not to participate in Roller Mills in 2019 and many provincial unions have developed improved models which have better outcomes for players than the traditional representative team option.