New Zealand Rugby
New Zealand Maori placed on hold for 2009
December 18, 2008
New Zealand Maori won the Pacific Nations Cup in 2008, but will not be competing in 2009 © Getty Images
The New Zealand Rugby Union has announced that there will be no fixtures for the New Zealand Maori in 2009 due to the cost issues.
The Maori's place in the Pacific Nations Cup, a tournament from which Australia A have also been pulled due to financial issues, will be taken by the Junior All Blacks. The Maori won the 2008 tournament, defeating Australia in the final at Sydney Football Stadium.
Funding has also been slashed for the Black Ferns, the women's All Blacks side, who will play a reduced schedule in preparation for the 2010 World Cup and the Heartland XV, a composite touring side from New Zealand's second-tier competition, will not assemble in 2009 either.
"While we have benefited from some upside in 2008, based largely on favourable exchange rate movements, we are projecting a loss in 2009 and within that budget we still have significant revenue at risk," said NZRU chief executive Steve Tew. "As a result, we have taken what we believe to be a sensible approach to our budget and have pro-actively reduced activity while we can manage the impacts rather than have changes forced on us."
Tew maintained that Maori rugby was still a priority for the NZRU, and that the New Zealand Maori would continue in the Pacific Nations Cup in future, but also that in the short-term the priority should be developing young players for the All Blacks. The NZRU will continue to explore opportunities for overseas matches for the Maori, providing that the fixtures generated sufficient revenue to cover the costs of assembling the team.
"It is important to remember that Maori rugby, together with other areas of our game, still benefits from the annual funding of provincial unions," Tew said. "Some of these were very tough decisions as they impact on people's rugby development, aspirations and opportunities.
"If economic conditions improve over time, we hope to be able to reinstate some or all of the programmes which will be affected in 2009."