ORFU focuses on grassroots as part of a renewed strategy

Otago rugby has added two more heavy hitters to the board, but insists that the organisation’s main focus remains grassroots health.

Sarah Middleton and Roger Taylor are the new faces on the eight-member board following the annual meeting of the Otago Rugby Football Union last week.

Middleton, who replaces Tony Pryde as State Representative for a two-year term, is a longstanding member of the Otago Country community who hails from Lawrence.

She has been a board member and treasurer of the Lawrence club for over 15 years, and prior to that a member and treasurer of the Otago Country Board.

Middleton has a 20-year career as a chartered accountant and is the chief financial officer for South Link Health.

Taylor, who fills the gap left last year by Jeffrey Broughton, is the chairman and joint treasurer of the Harbor club.

He first joined the Port Chalmers club in 1980, before it merged with Ravensbourne in 1992 to form Harbour.

Initially appointed for a one-year term, Taylor is now retired after a 30-year career in the motor trade in both Dunedin and Northland, having been a former CEO of Dunedin City Motors, a long-standing key partner of Otago rugby. .

“We had a refresh of our strategic direction last year and we will be very focused on community rugby and the areas our community has told us they want us to focus on,” ORFU Chairman Peter McCormack said yesterday.

“Both Sarah and Roger are very club or community rugby oriented and will really bring that to the board.

“Both have really good skills. In that respect, we’ve been very lucky in terms of the quality of people applying for the board.”

Board members Craig Brown and Deputy Chairman Warren Moffat were each reappointed for an additional three years.

The other board members are Donna Harpur-Swain, Council of Rugby Clubs Delegate Darryl MacKenzie, Amy Wilson-White and Chair Roy Daniels.

Otago reported a profit of almost $1 million at the annual meeting, but that was in fact because that was exactly the size of the subsidy it received from New Zealand Rugby as part of the Silver Lake deal.

The union is currently on hold.

“I hope in the near future we’ll get some indication of whether that’s it or if there’s additional money coming in,” McCormack said.

“We’d hate to start some kind of initiative and then say, oh, this is really good, but we can’t do it anymore.”

Otago’s player count remained relatively stable last year, but word on the ground to start the new season is that many clubs are struggling for numbers.

McCormack has heard a lot of that talk, noting that some players moved between clubs.

“Part of the new strategy is the health and sustainability of the club, and there are clear dropouts at a number of levels.

“That is a big challenge, for us and for all sports.”

McCormack has had his first year as chairman and has generally enjoyed it.

“It’s busy. I think it’s going to take another year to get my head around politics – there’s a bit of that happening.

“But I think New Zealand rugby has some really good people in basic rugby, and I’m totally optimistic about where we’re going.”

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