While their parent New Zealand Rugby is likely to be facing a massive multi-million dollar loss for 2019, the Wanganui Rugby Football Union is pleased to have maintained a modest net profit for their financial year.
The WRFU held their AGM earlier this week, with chief executive Bridget Belsham announcing a net profit of just over $16,000, slightly less than the budgeted $20,000.
The net profit for 2018 was just under $55,000.
Nonetheless, Belsham is still satisfied with the number, after two major building developments during the past 12 months, along with the fact that unlike 2018, Cooks Gardens was unable to host any major Heartland Championship playoff matches.
Belsham said bar income and corporate box income was down on 2018, when Steelform Wanganui finished top of the Heartland table and therefore hosted a semifinal against Thames Valley – expecting to go on and also host the final until their upset 17-7 loss.
Last year's campaign saw Wanganui have to come from deep in the pack after three straight losses, ultimately making the final, but with their playoff games therefore being hosted in Paeroa and Oamaru respectively.
The big change came in April when WRFU relocated their offices at Cooks Gardens into the former Sport Whanganui building, facing out onto the Maria Place extension.
The WRFU also paid for upgrades at Spriggens Park, specifically the field and the referees room.
"We're in a good financial position," said Belsham.
"We lent money to the trust when we purchased [the office building], so in future the trust will be advancing money to the union for development programmes.
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"We're tracking ok. This year we're budgeted for another $20,000 profit, before depreciation."
In her written report to the AGM, Belsham said funding from NZR, grants and sponsorship continue to be important and vital income sources, as the WRFU continues with plans to invest in women's rugby, referees, and the secondary school game.
Overall, registration numbers fell slightly from 2477 to 2451, although last year was the first since NZR introduced a new database where people could sign up online, "which caused a huge amount of problems with capturing and reporting registrations".
"We are confident the issues have been rectified and the 2020 year will accurately reflect where we are at going forward."
For example, last year junior registrations were down by 87, from 1313 to 1226, however secondary school numbers increased against the national trend, from 527 to 547, while senior registrations also went up, 637 to 678.
There was also a big increase in coaches, 100 to 145, and a modest increase in referees, 29 to 36.
In the staffing numbers, 2019 saw the departure of Eneliko Fa'atau and Jerome McCrea, to the Manawatu Rugby Academy and shearing work respectively, while Belsham has welcomed newcomers in former Black Fern Sosoli Talawadua as women's/secondary school development officer and Tyrone Kemp as the broad-ranging game development manager.
The other changes are coming at WRFU board level, where independent member Gareth O'Hagen and long serving Council of Clubs representative Brian 'Porky' Green (Hunterville) are stepping down.
Chairman Jeff Phillips said in his report that the CoC has been unable to provide the board with their quota of members, so changes to the composition of the governing body may be necessary as they look to make changes to the constitution.
Both Belsham and Phillips have also confirmed the WRFU is looking at a big cosmetic change – adding the 'H' into Wanganui.
"We've just got to make sure we follow the right process around that," Belsham said.
Phillips said they are working through the constitution changes and possible inclusion of the 'H' with assistance from the NZR legal department.
"Our aim is to have a special general meeting in the first quarter of the 2020 to address these issues."
Currently, the only WRFU entity which officially carries the 'H' is the Whanganui Maori representative team.