The Roller Mills rugby tournament, which has now been abandoned, has played a role in the careers of dozens of our local and national stars.
One of the absolute legends of the game, Sir Bryan Williams, was picked for an Auckland Roller Mills team when he was 11. The next year he was still eligible for the under-13 competition.
He considered himself a certainty, he would tell author Bob Howitt years later. "Because I was so cock sure I'd make the team I didn't train half as hard, and my form dropped. When the team was announced at Eden Park my name wasn't there.
"It was the most traumatic thing that had happened in my life until then. I walked three miles home in the rain, crying all the way. It was a salutary lesson, one that I never forgot."
There will be many former Roller Mills players, and even those like myself without the natural gifts to have ever made a team, who will look back with nostalgia at the excitement tournament selection brought to primary and intermediate schools in the huge catchment area, which stretched from Northland to the King Country.
Online some old school comments have been brutal. "What next? Kids only playing rugby if wrapped in 15 layers of cotton wool, and only allowed to walk, not run?" "This folly will be reflected in future All Black results." And "Welcome to the modern world of mediocrity."
Well, yeah, but no, but, actually no. And to explain why I disagree with the naysayers, we need to head to Scandinavia, and that region's sporting powerhouse.
Norway has a population of 5.3 million, not much more than our 4.7 million. Like us they're a first world country, with a special obsession in sport. They love snow and ice sports, and by a mile they're the kings of the world on snow. At the last winter Olympics, in 2018, Norway won 39 medals (14 of them gold), which was 10 more than Canada and 16 more than the United States.
You could say, despite that hiccup at the World Cup in Japan for the All Blacks, that alpine sport is to Norway what rugby is to New Zealand. Two small countries punching miles above their weight.
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And guess what? In Norway they dumped rep teams, and championships for pre-teen kids decades ago.
In an interview last year with Time magazine, the head of Norway's Olympic programme, Tore Ovrebo, said that in Norway, organised youth sports teams cannot keep score until they are 13.
"We want to leave the kids alone," says Ovrebo. "We want them to play. We want them to develop, and be focused on social skills. They learn a lot from sports. They learn a lot from playing. They learn a lot from not being anxious. They learn a lot from not being counted. They learn a lot from not being judged. And they feel better. And they tend to stay on for longer."
In the weekend I chatted with my son-in-law, Mark, who played Roller Mills in Auckland. He had nothing but good memories of the experience, but also recalled how some of the kids the year he played had to sweat off weight in saunas "like adult jockeys do" to make the weigh-ins.
In Norway? Trainers don't even tell young athletes how much they weigh. "It's very dangerous," says Ovrebo. "They can develop eating disorders."
What's happened in Norway, Tom Tvedt, the president of Norway's Olympic committee told The Guardian in February last year is that before kids become teenagers they should just have fun with sport. "So we don't focus on who the winner is before then. Instead we are very focused on getting children into our 11,000 local sports clubs. And we have 93 per cent of children and young people regularly playing sport in these organisations."
As Tvedt explained, this benefited everyone, because the more that people enjoyed sport as kids, the broader the talent pool their elite teams will have later. "All our medals have come from athletes who have started in local clubs."
There's no doubt that the shift in mindset from having 11 and 12 year old rugby players being highly competitive to just playing for their school or club for fun is a massive one.
But the harsh reality is that the current system sees a massive drop off in the teen years. In Auckland secondary schools, for example, the number of rugby teams, both male and female, has dropped by 20 per cent since 2013.
They say a definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The decision at the start of September by rugby, netball, cricket, football and hockey to all move nationally towards a less result oriented model for younger children (in other words to start to lean towards the system they use in Norway) will result in the loss of some much loved events, like the Roller Mills tournament. But time may prove it to be a classic case of actually being cruel to be kind.