New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) has been given a once in a generation opportunity to improve and transform the code as part of the Government’s COVID-19 Sport Recovery Package.
Of this recovery package, Sport NZ’s ‘Strengthen and Adapt’ phase aims to help sector organisations make changes necessary to ensure they are future-proofed in order to operate successfully in the post-pandemic environment.
NZRL completed an in-depth research process involving key rugby league stakeholder groups to determine the code’s current positioning, gaps and pressure points.
Using the feedback and insights gained, NZRL created its ‘Strengthen and Adapt’ response plan, ‘Ngā Ringa Āwhina’ – an initiative designed to support increased capability across the rugby league network at all levels in New Zealand.
Sport NZ will contribute $750,000 towards NZRL’s Ngā Ringa Āwhina project over 18 months (April 2021 – June 2022). NZRL will be supplementing this amount to ensure the programme is sustainable and also can continue to exist past the initial Sport NZ funding period.
The kaupapa of Ngā Ringa Āwhina is ‘the helping or supportive hands’ and encapsulates the concept of working alongside Zones, Districts, Clubs and communities, as a partner, in a mana enhancing way.
In short, Ngā Ringa Āwhina aims to establish initiatives of trained (and externally supported) specialists deployed into regions as agreed with Zones, Districts and Clubs following an analysis of needs, to support their existing personnel in making improvements, and leave resources in place for long term sustainability.
The four main components of Ngā Ringa Āwhina are as follows:
- Governance and administration – Upskilling Districts and Clubs in governance, administration and management, especially around funding and applying for grants to support sustainability.
• Cultural awareness and learning – Delivery of programmes including workshops in first language, cultural learning and lessons on treaty obligations, awareness programmes including a focus on minority groups, ensuring a consistent approach with Sport NZ’s plan on disability, and women and girls.
• Development of the game – Upskilling coaches, referees and match officials, including technical training and softer skills such as resilience training for high-pressure roles critical to game development. New competitions and tournaments to increase participation primarily at the rangatahi age, such as district U16/18s as well as leveraging off different game formats such as League Tag, Kiwi Tag and, Ki O Rahi.
• Community and wellbeing – Using rugby league ambassadors, in conjunction with local specialist providers, to support communities through Zones, Districts and Clubs on areas such as physical and mental health, nutrition, injury prevention and safety, safeguarding of vulnerable people, the importance of and providing a potential pathway to further education or work scheme providers.
NZRL CEO Greg Peters says this is a massive opportunity for rugby league.
“The desired outcome of Ngā Ringa Āwhina is a rugby league network that is consistent, confident, credible, and professional. A safe, supportive environment reflective of and integral to our communities. This has the potential to have a significant long-term impact on the game in New Zealand.”
Sport New Zealand CEO, Raelene Castle says, “We have worked alongside Greg and the NZRL team in the development of Ngā Ringa Āwhina and we are excited about the opportunity this represents for the Rugby League community.
“Sport New Zealand’s strengthen and adapt programme aims to support our National Partners to rebuild post-Covid-19 and make changes to operate successfully post-pandemic, strengthening their capability and capacity and creating a better future for the communities they serve. We look forward to seeing the programme hit the ground.”
In the near future, New Zealand Rugby League will initially be advertising for the new Ngā Ringa Āwhina support team roles that will be based around the country, covering the areas of Governance and Administration, Community Wellbeing and National Game Development.
NZRL will provide further information on role requirements and how to apply in due course.