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New model aims to increase JAB player numbers

JUNIOR TALL TIMBER: HSOB and Pirates under-12 players vie for possession.

POVERTY Bay Rugby Football Union JAB chairwoman and board member Cara Haines says the new board’s main focus is to increase participation in all rugby.“There is strong rugby participation in Gisborne, with approximately 2050 playing, but in the U12/U13 grades there is a drop in the number of junior players, with only two clubs having teams in the U13 grade this season.

“It’s at the U12/U13 age that some kids are developing much faster than others and size is a safety issue. It is not unusual for a kid who is around the 40-kilogram mark to be playing a kid twice that weight.

“This drop-off is not a new situation and is certainly not unique to Gisborne. The question is how we increase participation and create a safe and fun environment for these kids to play, while still catering for everyone.”

The new board formed in May — consisting of four independent members George Brown, Sue Baker, Hayden Swann and Darryl Hudson, senior rugby CoC (council of clubs) chairman Jamie Hutana, CoC vice chairman Willis Tamatea and JAB (Junior Advisory Board) chairwoman Haines.

Stakeholders were surveyed back in June “to get an overview of what the level of satisfaction/dissatisfaction was across all areas of the game”.

“There was a lot of positive feedback, indicating a good level of satisfaction, but the biggest notable response was 73 percent saying they would like to see weight grading.

“Twenty-seven percent were unsure as to whether they would return to rugby in 2018. Whether there would be weight-grading was indicated as the deciding factor for most.

“This information was passed on to the JAB, who is responsible for how the junior competition is run, to decide how to use this information to move forward.

“The JAB is made up of 13 delegates, representing clubs, primary, intermediate and high schools.

“A special meeting was held and after much discussion around different options, the vast majority of the delegates decided to change to a new model to try to improve the game.

“This model is to have two divisions for a mixed U12/U13 grade in 2018, with a weight-graded division and an open grade.

“We believe this is the good option to create a place for everyone to play. Lighter players can play in the weight-restricted grade, while the bigger players can play in the open grade.

“When you remove the size difference, the game becomes more about skill, not brute strength.

Haines said the new format linked to the PBRFU and NZRU strategic plan to increase participation and offer different forms of rugby for new and returning players.

“The board fully supports this change to the competition and feels positive that we are working with the information we were given— that was that changes had to be made.

“The objective is to encourage and re-engage players, grow numbers, and keep our young rugby enthusiasts in the game.”

Poverty Bay Rugby Football Union chief executive Marty Davis said the new structure set clear direction for the JAB and operation/management.

“Meaningful competitions are the crux to development and while it has been clear from 2017 participation, and the survey responses, that some changes might be required, only time will show whether Gisborne actually has sufficient players at 12/13 to sustain two competitions.

“I’m pleased to see the JAB delegates and their clubs agree to make these changes in an effort

to recruit, retain and develop this crucial age group.

“The decision-making process is to be applauded.”