Weighing in on athletic bursaries: Parents watch as Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview, plays Scots College. Photo: Cole BennettsA cross section of GPS parents and supporters have largely rejected public concerns about student safety in GPS rugby, despite last weekend’s 101-0 defeat of Newington at the hands of Scots College.
However at least some parents expressed criticisms about the scholarship structure, and its impact on student safety, when approached at Scots’ top-of-the-table clash with Riverview in Lane Cove on the weekend, which Scots won 31-21 after coming back from 0-21 at half-time.
Riverview parent Guy Thompson said the increasing use of athletic bursaries was undermining the development role of sport in schools.
“It sort of undermines the whole school if you import kids who are already good,” Mr Thompson said. “That just says they’re not into developing kids.
“There’s a whole bunch of welfare options available that we can [use] to educate people that are otherwise not going to get it.
“It’s a waste of time, and it’s dangerous.”
Mr Thompson said mismatched teams “absolutely” posed a safety risk to players.
“It’s an absolute waste of time, no side learns from it, and it’s dangerous,” he said.
After the Newington thrashing, Rugby great Nick Farr-Jones called for a drastic change to the competition, including a restriction on the number of athletes on lucrative sporting scholarships fielded by each team.
“I don’t like mismatches,” he said. “I don’t think it builds character. I don’t think it is good for anyone. My major concern is safety. If there are significant weight and strength differences [between teams] then there are safety issues and we have to be careful of that.”
During the week Scots College principal Dr Ian Lambert rejected Mr Farr-Jones’ comments in an email to the school community, saying that he would not allow “shallow and misguided criticisms … without rebuttal”.
Dr Lambert denied the school was stacking the team with players on sports scholarships, saying: ‘‘Scots is not professionalising schoolboy sport. We unashamedly aim for excellence in sport in the same way we aim for excellence in music, mathematics or any other subject.”
Sally Clinton, the mother of a Riverview player, said she was “always worried” at the possibility of her son being injured during matches.
But she dismissed the claim that the competition had become more dangerous due to teams importing players on athletic scholarships, and said they helped “kids who would otherwise never have the opportunity”.
“If they bring them in at a young age then that’s fine. It’s when they bring them in right at the end, and the boys that have worked their way up get dropped. I think that’s been happening in the past, definitely, but it’s stopped now,” Mrs Clinton said.
Others dismissed concerns about the imbalance in the competition, pointing to similar results in the past.
“We were very good on the day,” said John White, a Scots College ‘Old Boy’, referring to last week’s resounding victory.
“It just happens,” another Scots supporter said, adding that “ ‘Joey’s’ were beating everybody by 90- to 100-0 a few years ago.”
That such scorelines are a natural part of the sporting cycle was also echoed by Riverview parents.
“I think everybody recognises Scots are playing really well,” Mrs Clinton said.
“My boys just think that Scots are just a really good team. They see it as a challenge.”
Alini Hayson, whose son plays for Riverview’s first side, said the perception that the competition is mismatched is ill-informed.
“It’s actually not mismatched,” Mrs Hayson said, pointing out Riverview were fielding a side with more NSW representative players than Scots in Satuday’s top of the table clash.
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