St Kentigern College says College Sport will lead arbitration to resolve the first XV dispute

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St Kentigern College says College Sport Auckland has agreed to its request for arbitration to try to resolve the ugly dispute that has seen 10 schools in Auckland and others further south boycott its first XV rugby team.

“We are delighted to confirm College Sport Auckland has agreed to do this,” college head David Hodge said in a statement to his school’s community on Thursday.

The request from the college is for an arbitrated agreement for the 2020 season, while Hodge says he wants to find common ground for 2019.

At the same time he said wanted to honour commitments already made with five students who are at the centre of the dispute.

The other 10 schools in Auckland’s premier 1st XV competition have boycotted the college, because of its recruitment policy. The college recently revealed it had enrolled five boys on full scholarships. The boys this year played for first XVs outside the Auckland region.

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College Sport Auckland runs the first XV competition.

“We always want to be part of a tournament where the same rules apply to all participants. We will enter arbitration in that spirit, while also needing to ensure the commitments we have already made with the five boys and their families, who are joining the College next year, are also honoured.

“These boys and their families have also made a commitment to Saint Kentigern, and we will respect that. We look forward to the contribution they will make to the College, not only in sport but as we know from past experience,  across other academic and school activities.”

Hodge said the school would comply fully with all rules and maintained it always had. “We are happy to abide by any approach covering all schools in arbitration for 2020 and are keen to find common ground for 2019, while honouring our commitments which were entered into in good faith before this matter arose.”

Hodge said it seemed unusual that the controversy had arisen at this time of year, after all schools had completed enrolments for 2019.

“We do not accept claims that we have acted inconsistently with our values or that we “recruit” players, which we do not do.”

The 10 boycotting schools had come up with a protocol for dealing with recruitment, but St Kentigern would not sign it, leading to the boycott.

The boycott spread further south on Thursday, with the central North Island’s Super Eight schools refusing to play the Auckland school.

Super Eight is a competitive league comprising Hamilton Boys’ High School, Palmerston North Boys’ High School, Hastings Boys’ High School, Rotorua Boys’ High School, New Plymouth Boys’ High School, Gisborne Boys’ High School, Napier Boys’ High School and Tauranga Boys’ College.

While those teams wouldn’t normally come up against St Kents in the course of a season, if they were approached for a game they would all be declining the offer.

It’s understood that refusal to play will mirror however long the Auckland schools continue their boycott.

“As a Super Eight entity we’ve unanimously agreed to support our Auckland counterparts,” Palmerston North Boys’ High School rector David Bovey said.

St Kentigern College 1st XV have a team huddle during their match against Mt Albert Grammar College in May.

MARC SHANNON

St Kentigern College 1st XV have a team huddle during their match against Mt Albert Grammar College in May.