An interesting article written by Marc Hinton. Having spoken to Manawatu Chief Executive Officer myself in 2003, I still support them moving up into the Premier Division. I think that the NZRU need to lower the salary cap to accommodate the smaller teams. Otherwise the bigger sides won't have to let their players go. I do believe that despite huge losses for Manawatu they need this to improve. They have in the past lost some decent players most recently Mark Ranby, Chresten Davis, Christian Cullen and Lifeime Mafi who was the unluckiest man to miss out on the Super 12. They were also stung by the Central Vikings debacle. They have a population base bigger than Southland/ Taranaki and Northland, a Rugby Academy (which is obviously not doing too well) and a University which naturally brings in young males to the province. They also have a place in the Arena Manawatu that is up there with all other provinces. The question mark remains how have they done so badly? But if they can draw players from overseas and the Hurricanes region they may make a competitive side eventually. The frustrating thing is that the development teams of some of the best unions have Super 12 players or quality enough players that could add something to the NPC. Look at Auckland Development team with Gavin Williams who was awesome for the Stags but this year is playing for the Development team. I think there are enough of these type of guys to go to these smaller provinces and become successful. Just look at the way that fringe NPC players for Super 12 provincial unions like Te Whare (Waikato), Smith, Kawau and Boys (Otago) and Thompson (Wellington) have done for the Stags. It will make the transfer list exciting over summer!
Only other issue with me is the All Blacks involvement in the NPC. If they are going to continue playing so many games maybe it is better to leave them out of it completely and stick to a 10 team First Division. Anyway, leave your comments!
NPC Risks Becoming A Bad Joke
Only drastic action from the New Zealand Rugby Union can surely now stop the NPC becoming a joke competition when it undergoes a revamp next year. And, sorry, but there's more chance of Helen Clark joining the Exclusive Brethren than that taking place. For starters the decision to grant Manawatu one of the absurdly high 14 places in next year's "Premier" Division of the National Provincial Championship is bordering on a national disgrace. Someone in Wellington needs to look up the word "premier" in the dictionary. At this rate the NZRU could face a trip to the courts under the Consumer Guarantees Act. At the moment Manawatu would struggle to knock over the local boy scouts, let alone the Aucklands and Canterburys of this world, and to grant them a place in next year's top division is absurd and disgraceful. I call on the NZRU to review that decision based on current form alone. Surely, for goodness sake, criteria are not being fulfilled here. At the weekend Manawatu lost to Poverty Bay for its fourth defeat in five second division outings this season. With all due respect to the boys from Gizzie, that's a result that should have all at HQ clambering over the fine print of next year's NPC. And it wasn't as if this was an aberration result for the spluttering green machine. They were also walloped by 20 points by North Otago - another side who deservedly didn't make, nor seek to, the cut for professional rugby - and were well beaten by Nelson Bays and Hawke's Bay. Sure, they will retool for next year, and pick up a quality player or two. Frankly they need 15, at the least, and they're not going to get that. Sadly, in this day of legal threats and provincial power, there's almost zero chance of the NZRU reviewing its decision to allow Manawatu, as well as Hawke's Bay, Nelson Bays-Marlborough and Counties Manukau to join the existing 10 first division sides in next year's "premier" competition. And as someone who's been against this absurd expansion (a gutless call from the NZRU who backed right off making the hard decisions) from the outset, I find it all quite sad. The way it's heading NPC will stand for Not a Proper Competition. For starters it's already going to be split into a confusing, two-stage season with all sorts of meaningless, one-sided matches. The public, once they realise the ridiculous competition they're being handed, will be aghast. Gee, the NPC is struggling to put bums on seats this year with a fairly reasonable 10-team competition where all except Northland are fairly competitive. Next year our rugby stadiums could resemble mausoleums as Joe Public will assuredly vote with his feet. New Zealand rugby people are being sold a lemon by the NZRU and it is not going to take them long to realise the new competition sucks. What is more the last chance that it had of even remotely working appears to have been removed with the still-to-be-confirmed decision to allow a $2 million (or thereabouts) salary cap for the "Premier" league. Effectively that removes the need for leading players to be dispersed with the major unions able to comfortably retain their existing talent. How these second-tier unions soon to be thrust among the big boys are going to be able to come up with anything remotely competitive is baffling in the extreme. Clearly there is only just enough talent around now to fuel a 10-team league. And a fairly average one at that, if the fare over the last month or so is closely examined. Expanding it by four sides is just going to dilute a competition which for nearly three decades has been the foundation rock of New Zealand rugby. Sadly that is no longer the case. With top All Blacks now appearing about as often as Halley's Comet and next year's fun and games looming, the NPC appears to be heading for lean times. And that to me that isn't just sad, but a major worry.