Rugby: St Kents boycott is the 'response of losers'

Opinion 08/12/2018
St Kentigern v Kings College in May. Photo: Getty.

By Rodney Hide, former ACT Party leader.

Auckland Grammar and nine other Auckland schools are boycotting St Kentigern's 1st XV rugby team because the school has been poaching their students.

The full vitriol of the sports commentariat has been on hyperdrive, declaring St Kents immoral, predatory, big business, cynical, brazen, pushing sport at the cost of academic achievement and widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Sport New Zealand boss Peter Miskimmin is supporting the boycotting principals for making what he declared a moral value-based stand for the integrity of the sport and the holistic development on children.

What nonsense.

First up, Auckland Grammar and the other schools should be asking themselves why their students are leaving for St Kentigerns. Obviously, St Kentigerns is offering something that the other schools aren’t.

That says more about the attitude of the boycotting schools than it does about St Kents.

The proper answer is for the schools to provide better for their star rugby players, indeed all their students, rather than imprison them in their school.

Second, what’s wrong with scholarships? Why shouldn’t pupils who are outstanding academically, musically, in sports, or in other ways, being eligible for scholarships to schools that better value their skills and who can better develop them?

Our great musicians and academics have often benefited enormously from scholarships. Is that wrong? Should the next Sir Ernest Rutherford or Dame Kiri Te Kanawa be left to languish in a school that’s not for them just because that’s the school they started at? Or should they be free, and indeed, encouraged to attend the school that’s best for them?

I would have thought the answer was obvious. But it’s not obvious it seems for rugby, Auckland Grammar and the other boycotting schools, the sports commentariat and sports administrators.

It seems to me that it’s Auckland Grammar and the other boycotting schools that have lost their moral compass.

They are telling us that they must have some claim on their students simply because they had them first. Their concern is their school, not the students. Clearly, their defecting students think their best interest is served by attending St Kents. That should be a choice for the students, not the school. It’s the Auckland Grammars that want to take that choice away.

And while we are talking sport, what’s wrong with competition? It seems Auckland Grammar and the other schools are opposed to it. They don’t want to have to compete with St Kents for players and for students. That says more about the attitude of the boycotting schools than it does about St Kents.

Also, there appears to be crocodile tears from the boycotting talking about the importance of academic achievement and rounded students. Their concern is the success of their first fifteen, not academic performance. The entire skirmish is about rugby.

Finally, what are the values of Auckland Grammar and the other schools, and what values are they instilling in their students, when their response to a potentially better team is to boycott them?

Oh no, that team’s too good for us. We are not playing them.

The proper response is to front up, to give it your best shot, to grow and to learn. That’s the winner’s response. The boycott is the response of losers.

Rodney Hide speaks all things politics every Saturday on RadioLIVE’s Weekend Life.