The Blues and the provincial unions of Northland, North Harbour and Auckland have announced plans to implement an integrated high performance pathway for rugby talent in the region.
This embraces a collaborative approach in co-designing high performance processes and programmes, and leverage resources across the region with the objective of delivering enhanced long-term value in the community.
A key outcome is to develop a clear and continuous pathway for talent to be identified, developed and retained within the Blues region comprising players, coaches and support staff.
The catalyst for this approach was the result of an independent review commissioned by the provincial unions and the Blues, conducted by high performance consultants Eddie Kohlhase, Ken Lynch and Paul McAlpine.
“We believe this can be a game-changer for rugby in our region,” said Blues CEO Andrew Hore.
“If we improve how we work together and assist each other to be successful in a positive, transparent and respectful manner, then this partnership will prove a vital cog in the sustainability of our sport across community, high performance and organisational outcomes.”
The key actions include an alignment of high performance development processes and programmes across the provincial unions through to the Blues programmes into Super Rugby.
There will be close collaboration on sharing of resources across the region to identify and develop talent, with the Blues providing oversight and support of the provincial union academies to be consistently operating as world-class development environments.
The Blues have appointed Andrew Hewetson as the new role as Head of Performance Development to lead this work and manage the coordinated approach to identifying and developing players in the region.
Hewetson has most recently been Sport Development Consultant at Sport New Zealand for five years and a lecturer in Sport Coaching and Skill Acquisition at Unitec Institute of Technology.
He is formerly a teacher and assistant head of department in physical education and health, with a Masters’ degree in physical education and post-graduate diploma in sports management. His research focussed on talent identification and development policies and practices in New Zealand provincial rugby.
Hewetson has a strong background in rugby with involvement from 1st X through Academies to provincial representative programmes.
“The Blues and our provincial unions have embarked on a bold and comprehensive approach to the development and retention of rugby talent in our region,” said Blues CEO, Andrew Hore.
“We are thrilled to have attracted someone of Andrew’s extensive background, experience and skillset for what is a significant and unique role.
“Andrew not only has an extensive background in sport development and talent identification, he is well respected in rugby. “
Hore said that comprehensive planning for long term success is critical in the modern professional sporting environment.
“We believe this plan will provide the framework for a systematic, region-wide approach to understanding what it will take to attract, recruit and develop the right players in the right way in an effective development environment.
“We know it will take an extraordinary amount of hard work, goodwill and a willingness to work collaboratively. Equally we are massively excited at the opportunity and challenge ahead of us.”
The Provincial Unions from within the Blues Region are fully behind the new initiative.
North Harbour Rugby Chair, Gerard Van Tilborg says: “We are encouraged by what we have seen to date. There is a collective willingness to strengthen Rugby at all levels for the people in the region and our valued sponsors. We’ve been working closer than ever with the Blues and our Provincial partners for some time and it’s pleasing to get it to this point. Harbour Rugby see this as a positive step to achieving both on and off field success”.
Auckland Rugby Union CEO Jarrod Bear says: ‘Auckland Rugby is both excited and committed to advancing on the opportunity to work more collaboratively across the Blues Region. As a group we have made progress in this area and seen the benefits, so it will be exciting to accelerate now and deliver excellent outcomes in the future.”
Northland Rugby Union CEO Cameron Bell says: “Northland has long been known throughout Aotearoa as a prolific nursery for producing stunning rugby talent and this collaboration with the Blues will ensure we harness and nurture our very best to have the opportunity to play Super Rugby and beyond. When Northland Rugby is at its strongest, the Blues will be too, and this is a very positive step forward.”