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Rugby Union and Rugby League

  • March 29th, 2008

100 years ago Welllington post office clerk Bert Baskerville advertised for others to join him on  a self paid rugby tour to Britain. He’d read about huge amounts being earned in the Midlands by teams willing to ignore snobbery and play for a share of the gate takings.

His team members got a good return (some mortgaged their houses to go)  but the snobbery lasted.

A couple of months ago I was accordingly surprised when David Rutherford (sports law specialist and former NZRFU CEO) floated the idea of an exploratory union between selected clubs of the two codes at junior level. “The junior versions of Rugby are so close to League” he pointed out. But more significantly he saw the opportunity for the clubs to get better rewards for the dedication of the increasingly scarce parent coaches, managers and other volunteers who keep these sports going for children.

Volunteers are too valuable to under-use. He thought that Rugby clubs might have more depth in people available to run clubs. On the other hand families that play league might be better at keeping alive the flame of desire to play these codes, in competition with soccer.  If the kids from both traditions played together in the same clubs, they could choose which way they specialised at the age when the sports become full contact.

As I have not been chosen to chair Wellington Rugby League for my deep familiarity with the sport I was non-committal, though I did ask my board whether the idea was outlandish. Yes it seemed.

Yet this morning’s Herald has new Kiwi coach mentor Wayne Bennett proposing something remarkably like the Rutherford speculation. 

I’ll see whether there is enthusiasm to test the idea in any of our Wellington clubs.

Judging from the comments on the Herald website there will be little appetite from either tribe of  oval ball chasers to end their historical bristling.


  • Trevor Loudon
  • March 30th, 2008
  • 8:11 am

Keep the codes seperate I say.

Rugby is going down and League is on a slight upswing. The competition for players keeps both codes on their toes.

Without League, Rugby would still be the boring game it was back in the ’70s

Rugby would try to swallow League in any merger, to the detriment of both sports.

Go the Warriors on Monday night.

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