All Blacks legends: New Zealand Rugby is ‘broken’ as controversial vote puts game at ‘very big risk’

Colin Newboult
All Blacks players in a huddle alongside The Breakdown panel.

All Blacks players in a huddle alongside The Breakdown panel.

Several All Blacks legends have agreed that the unions could have severely damaged the game in New Zealand following last week’s controversial vote.

Members of New Zealand Rugby (NZR) all gathered at a special general meeting to decide on two proposals.

The first, backed by both the players and NZR, would implement the recommendations laid out by an independent review led by chair David Pilkington.

The Pilkington report concluded that the governing body was ‘not fit for purpose’ and suggested a number of changes to the organisation.

However, several provincial unions made a counter-offer, known as Proposal 2, which was also voted on.

NZRPA’s threat

A week before the crucial meeting, the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) threatened to break away from NZR if Proposal 2 was given the green light.

And when that was indeed passed by 69 to 21, the NZRPA confirmed their intentions to split from the governing body, sparking a potential civil war.

It has left All Blacks past and present frustrated, including Sir John Kirwan, whose proposal was dismissed by most of the unions.

“Here’s who came out in favour of this (Proposal 1): Richie McCaw, the great Ian Kirkpatrick, Sir Michael Jones, Sir Wayne Smith, Sir Steve Hansen, Sir Buck Shelford, Mils (Muliaina), Goldie (Jeff Wilson), Sean Fitzpatrick,” Kirwan told The Breakdown.

“They all came out and said: ‘We think for the game it is the best to do option one.’ You know what these people (some unions) have done; ‘I’m just going to ignore that and get back to the same old stuff’.”

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Fellow ex-All Black Jeff Wilson reckons that the majority of provincial unions are not confident those at the top of the game have their best interests at heart, but admits that the decision to vote for Proposal 2 is a “very, very big risk”.

“The question is why they have decided to ignore that. I honestly felt that they didn’t think that going forward, if they went down Proposal 1, they would get the respect or support they deserve,” he said.

“What’s happened is that the people who have made these decisions not to reset our game have put it in a very, very big risk to have a massive split in the game, between professional and amateur.”

Better for the grassroots game

However, All Blacks centurion Mils Muliaina actually believes that Proposal 1 would have been better for the amateur game.

“Proposal 1, they wanted to enhance the grassroots and everything else, that’s why they went with Proposal 1. Proposal 2 doesn’t achieve that,” Muliaina said.

“Would it be a bad idea if the professional game went off on their own with New Zealand Rugby, New Zealand Rugby Players Association, the commercial side? They could possibly do that.

“It’s broken, the relationship between all this is absolutely broken.”

Meanwhile, Kirwan queried whether the governance review was ultimately a waste of money given that the unions were never going to vote for widespread change.

“My problem is that the Pilkington report cost close to a million dollars, and this is the problem with the current governance,” he said.

“This current group of people that voted against it agreed to do it. They agreed to do it, but why? They knew they would veto it in the end.”

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