After a change of leadership and the introduction of two new council members last year, the New Zealand Universities and Tertiary Students Rugby League has continued the momentum at its annual meeting, held in Wellington.
A total of five new councillors have come on board, with 1980-84 NZ Universities player and Christchurch chartered accountant Mark Pfeifer replacing Saimon Lomaloma as treasurer and Hastings-based 1991 NZU representative Steve Lawson returning to the council after a three-year absence.
Another former NZU player, Brisbane-based Paul Sowerby, brings a marketing background and becomes the first non-New Zealand based member on the council.
Two current players have also come onto the council - 2010-14 player and Waikato Institute of Technology Sports Science lecturer Marrin Haggie and 2013 Student World Cup player Shawn Gielen-Relph, who is in his final year at the University of Otago, Wellington Medical School.
The annual meeting also saw the NZUTSRL gain its first elected patron in more than five years, with the election of 84-year-old life member Bob Dragicevich.
Dragicevich is considered the "father" of university rugby league in New Zealand, He founded the Otago, Canterbury and Auckland University clubs in 1954, 1956 and 1957 respectively, and also co-founded the New Zealand Universities Council in 1968 and again in late 2003, after the name had been taken over by New Zealand Students in 1997.
Auckland-based Dragicevich was senior ddvisor in physical education in the northern (Auckland) area between 1957-90, and set up an Auckland primary and intermediate schools competition that, at its peak in 1969, had 168 teams participating.
His other achievements include becoming the first New Zealand university student to receive a sporting blue for rugby league, from the University of Otago in 1953, and more recently receiving a New Zealand Rugby League Distinguished Service Award in 2013.
The annual meeting also saw Dunedin-based Rodney Moore and Wellington-based Carey Clements retain their positions as chairman and secretary respectively, while University of Auckland lecturer Dr Barry Hughes was elected deputy chair.
Dr Barrie Gordon and Marama Puketapu continue on the council.
Moore was very pleased with the council overall, including the new acquisitions, who add new skills and knowledge, and extend the council's reach throughout New Zealand.
“It is part of our long-term strategy to grow the game inside the university and tertiary sectors nationally," he said "So far, over the past 12months, we have laid a strong base for that to happen with new strategic and business plans developed, an extended playing programme and now adopting a new constitution at the annual general meeting.
"With the expanded council, we are looking very promising.”
Moore was also pleased that the council recorded its second successive surplus, as well as having NZRL board member Tim Gibson attend the meeting.
“Tim has been representing the NZRL in discussions about the growth of the game in Asia and Pacific, and university networks are a great way for that to happen, so we look forward to working closely with the NZRL to assist in any way that we can.
"However, our immediate focus is on arrangements for a tour by the Australian Universities team in October 2015, which will include two test matches - one in Christchurch, with the second test a feature of the West Coast Rugby League centenary celebrations at Labour Weekend.
"We are really looking forward to that.”
Corey Rosser, NRL.com
Over the last 12 months, Siliva Havili has experienced the very best and worst of what life as a professional rugby league player can throw up.
Through that period, he had joy of an NRL debut for his hometown club at 21 years of age, the shock of a test call up for the Kiwis just three games later and then the frustration of spending the rest of the time stuck in reserve grade, battling niggling injuries.
To cap it all off, his club then proceeded to sign one of the world's best players in his position for the next three years.
River City Press (Wanganui)
Bill Greenwood has always been fascinated by rugby league and on Sunday, May 31 at 2pm, he will be giving a presentation on its introduction to New Zealand and Wanganui between 1905-14.
The presentation is part of the Massey University history seminar, taking place each fortnight at the Alexander Heritage and Research Library.
When he retired from teaching maths and technical subjects in Wanganui, Bill did three degrees on the history of rugby league in the next eight years from Massey University.
Starting off with a graduate diploma focusing on "The Famous Northern Union Game – The Introduction of Rugby League to Wanganui, 1910-1915" in 2000, he continued on to gain his masters in history in 2002, with a thesis on "Trying Rugby League. Early Attempts to Establish Rugby Football’s Other Code in the Central Provinces of New Zealand, 1908-1915".
As if this wasn’t enough, he then completed a PhD on "Class Conflict and the Clash of the Codes: the introduction of Rugby League to New Zealand 1908 to 1920".
He is not aware of any other PhD written on the subject of rugby league in New Zealand and explains himself as “once I start doing something, I can’t give it away”.
Dr Kristy Carpenter, from Massey University, who is co-ordinating the seminar programme, says that “not only is Bill a very well qualified researcher and specialist on sport history in Whanganui, but he is also an adult learner of great perseverance and commitment, who has tackled all the obstacles/isolation of doing independent research and come out a real advocate for history and for people to be interested in their own local history in the community”.
The curious thing about Bill’s interest in rugby league is that, while he was brought up in Lancashire, England, in the midst of rugby league country, his family shifted to Alberta, Canada, where no rugby league is played.
Bill had to turn to rugby union. He worked as a draftsman until the federal government offered him a scholarship to become a teacher.
He says, “I always had a soft spot for New Zealand” and wanting to get away from the cold winters, Bill and his family came over and picked up a job at Girls’ College.
When rugby league returned to Wanganui for the third time, Bill became secretary.
There was a lot of opposition to league back then and when they set up a team from a secondary school to play on Sundays, the boys were told by the coach of the first XV that they would be banned from playing rugby on Saturdays.
He says that one irony is the belief that league in New Zealand was professional and union was a game for amateurs.
“Pre WW1, there were more payments to union players than league players," he said. "League couldn’t afford to pay back then.
"The payments to union players was of course under the table.”
Bill remains a devoted rugby league fan, supporting the New Zealand Warriors and enjoying the recent successes of the Kiwis league team.
Life is so much better than the old days when he had to set the alarm to wake up in time to watch test matches in England.
Check out the River City Press here and read Bill's paper on "The Famous Northern Union Game: The Rise and Fall of Rugby League in Wanganui, 1910-15"
Nadene Conlon was appointed the national operations manager for the NZRL in December last year, after holding down the national game development manager role before that.
In an often very macho or “blokey” sport, she's helped considerably by growing up in a fanatical rugby league family and by her playing experience for New Zealand, which included her captaining the Kiwi Ferns to victory at the World Cup in 2000.
She chatted to John Deaker for this week's "Mad Butcher Club Newsletter":
JD: Nadene, how does your current role at NZRL differ from the previous one you had there till late last year?
NC: It is very similar. I was the national game development manager and most of the programme I run now were part of that role, but I’m probably running them from more of a senior level or perspective now.
JD: Rugby league roots often run in the family, like they do in so many sports. How strong was the influence of your family to get you started playing rugby league?
NC: I’m from a very staunch and passionate league family. I think I spent almost every weekend of the league season at the local clubrooms growing up. My brother played (for the Junior Kiwis) and my father played and coached.
JD: What did it mean to your family for you to represent and captain your country?
NC: It was huge. My brother captained his Junior Kiwis team too. My mum and dad have always said they were so proud when they had one child play for New Zealand, but then to have both go on and captain national teams in rugby league was truly amazing, especially when they'd only had one son, that didn't even seem possible when we were growing up!
JD: How old were you when you first played rugby league?
NC: I didn’t start playing till I was 19. It wasn’t really the thing for girls when I was young, but I always wanted to play. I played almost every other sport you could name, including rep touch and netball. I remember there wasn’t a proper rugby league competition for woman when I was growing up – just one off games.
JD: Who did you play for when you eventually took up the sport?
NC: I played for Te Atatu when I started in 1993 and in 1995, I was lucky enough to be part of the inaugural Kiwi Ferns squad that toured Australia and won all seven matches, so it’s actually the 20th anniversary of the Kiwi Ferns this year.
JD: How much does your extensive knowledge of league and your playing background help you in such a “blokey” sport like league?
NC: Having a playing career certainly helps me avoid people thinking I don’t know what I’m talking about or don’t have a feel for some aspects of the game, because I do. Some people don’t know that I played when they first meet me, but are pleasantly surprised when they find out. I like to think that I’m recognised first and foremost for doing a good job, though, and anything else is a bonus.
JD: Does your current role have much to do with women’s rugby league?
NC: Women’s rugby league is part of my portfolio. About a year ago, NZ woman’s rugby league first came under the control of the NZRL. In a short time, we’ve made plenty of progress, although naturally the majority of my work is with the men, where the NZRL’s main focus of its resources remains.
JD: The “Women in League Round” of the NRL was maybe initially introduced as part of the sport’s public relations and could have been viewed as paying lip service to women in league. However, I think it’s genuinely grown every year to be a feature of the regular season. What do you make of it?
NC: I think it’s fantastic. It’s nice to recognise not just those that play the game, but all woman that have a connection to the game.
JD: It’s a great time for NZ rugby league. How much can the Kiwis’ success in the Four Nations and Anzac Test help the growth and interest of the game at all levels?
NC: I think the biggest thing that winning the Four Nations and Anzac tests has done is it’s put international rugby league back in the public eye. The Australians were starting to think that State of Origin was the pinnacle of rugby league throughout the world. International League has become competitive again, including Island nations like Samoa showing big improvements.
JD: Speaking of international league, Sir Peter believes you are very privileged to be travelling with him later this year! What is that all about?
NC: That’s right, the Kiwis are going to be touring the UK in October and November this year, and It’ll be great to have Sir Peter on board with all his experience, having been there and done that before (especially the “Year the Kiwis Flew” ). He’ll keep us all on our toes, for sure.
JD: So, apart from keeping Sir Peter under control, what’s your role on a tour like that?
NC: When the team travel, I’m the football manager, so I organise all the logistics like travel and accommodation. It should be a bit of fun in the UK, but also a big challenge for everyone over there. It’s very important that we do well and continue the momentum the team has built up over the last year.
Sir Owen Glenn is to transfer his 50% stake in the NZ Warriors rugby league franchise to a trust named the "Sir Owen Glenn Warriors Trust" to further the game at grassroots and secondary school levels.
“I will honour the commitment I made earlier in the year to transfer my stake in the NZ Warriors for the benefit of the rugby league community and the development at the grassroots level by enhancing opportunities for kids to participate in primary and secondary schools rugby league for their own growth and development," said Sir Owen. "This will hopefully assist with the growth of the game.
“I am pleased to announce that Bill Birnie, the Hon. John Banks and Mark Rice will be appointed as board members of the trustee of the trust. I am also delighted to announce that Sir Ralph Norris will be the patron of the trust.”
“Bill is ideally suited to chair the trustee board, given his role as a board member of Sport NZ, High Performance Sport NZ and the Warriors, and will work with the national sporting body, New Zealand Rugby League, to foster growth of the game in New Zealand.
"As a previous Minister of Sport, Mayor of Auckland and passionate rugby league supporter, the Hon. John Banks is also ideally suited to be a board member of the trustee. With John’s background as a senior player and past presidents of both Mt Albert Rugby League Club and Northland Rugby League, John will make a major contribution to the trust.
"Mark Rice is the principal of St Paul’s College in Auckland, a school that has a positive rugby league culture and encourages participation in the sport. Mark is also a trustee of Sport Auckland, a past convenor of the NZ Secondary Schools Rugby League Council and recent past member of the Auckland Secondary School Heads Association College Sport board.
"Mark’s extensive experience in education and sport makes him an ideal board member.”
NZRL chief executive Phil Holden confirmed that resources for the administration of the trust would be provided by the national body.
“I am delighted with Sir Owen’s decision to establish the Sir Owen Glenn Warriors Trust, which in time, I am sure, will assist us in growing the game of league in New Zealand,” said Holden.
Sir Owen also announced that he will settle an additional $100,000 on the trust, and lead a process with the trustee board members and the NZRL to produce a five-year blueprint to advance the sport of rugby league in New Zealand.
He commented further that any dividends or proceeds received by the trust, if the Warriors franchise is sold, could be used to assist with the activities of the trust.
Under the new management of chief executive Jim Doyle and with a strong performance from the Warriors on the field, Sir Owen believed that the club should be in a position to pay dividends in the short term.
Because of his decision to settle his 50% ownership of the Warriors on the trust, Sir Owen also noted there was no reason for existing proceedings between him and Warriors co-owner Eric Watson, currently before the New Zealand courts, to continue.