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Nick Farr-Jones calls for change to dangerous, imbalanced GPS sports competition

Date

Peter Munro

Thrashing: The Scots College rugby team beat Newington College 101-0 on the weekend.

Thrashing: The Scots College rugby team beat Newington College 101-0 on the weekend. Photo: Louise Kennerley

Wallabies great and NSW Rugby chairman Nick Farr-Jones has questioned the future of the elite GPS sports competition, in light of the 101-nil thrashing of Newington College by former close rival Scots. 

Farr-Jones said drastic change was needed to Sydney's most prestigious schools association to protect boys from harm and to stop such mismatches. Private schools should also cap the number of athletes on lucrative sports scholarships to ensure a level playing field, he added. 

"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." 

'I don't like mismatches': Former Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones.

'I don't like mismatches': Former Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones. Photo: Getty Images

NSW Rugby was considering a proposal under which GPS rugby would be replaced by a broader and more balanced competition that included other schools and junior rugby clubs, Farr-Jones said. The proposal had won support from some schools and clubs, he said.

"It could be a GPS team playing a CHS [state school] team or playing a CAS [private school] team or playing a club team," he said. "We need to look at a better way of doing things ... so we do have matches that participants enjoy playing and parents enjoy watching."

Schools should also restrict the awarding of controversial sports scholarships to about 20 per cent of players in any particular team, Farr-Jones added.

This month, The Scots College withdrew a new student recently recruited from Canada from its snowsports team, after claims from rival schools that he was ineligible to compete. The 14-year-old athlete, who was brought in by Scots after competing in the northern hemisphere, won individual gold at the Sydney Interschools Championships. 

In an email to parents, Scots insisted the boy was eligible to compete but acknowledged the "perception ... that it could open the way for other schools in years following to invite numbers of international athletes to compete for them ... to the possible detriment of Australian athletes". 

In 2013, the Bellevue Hill school's top basketball teams were boycotted amid claims from five GPS schools that it had paid inducements to many players, in breach of the GPS code of practice. Scots denied the claims.  

Last Saturday's result between Scots and Newington, co-winners of the 2013 season, has reignited concerns within the GPS. "Any scoreline which is massively unbalanced diminishes the educational value of the experience," said The King's School headmaster Timothy Hawkes. 

Scots headmaster Ian Lambert was not available for comment. 

Scots first XV has piled on 287 points in the first four rounds of this season. Against Newington, Scots players scored 15 tries in a performance one parent said "was like watching the All Blacks, it was so beautifully put together". 

The growing disparity between some teams in the GPS has seen Sydney Grammar and Sydney Boys High withdraw from the top-level rugby competition, citing safety fears for their smaller players. Farr-Jones, a Newington old boy, suggested other schools could follow suit. "I think headmasters should be looking at primarily issues of safety," he said. 

Former Wallabies player Phil Kearns, who also went to Newington, said such lopsided results were not great for the game. He suggested that one option for schools to consider was an "all or nothing approach, where you can have as many scholarships as you want or none at all".  

63 comments so far

  • While I agree with the concerns expressed by Nick Farr-Jones regarding the dangers inherent in the disparity in the player strength in the GPS rugby competition, I wonder is this the same person who railed against attempts to level the playing field in Sydney grade rugby some time back. At the time, Farr-Jones was amongst those that said you shouldn't drag the better sides down to the level of those below. It was up to them to met the challenge and compete. In this instance it concerned the unfair advantage in facilities and money enjoyed by powerhouses such as Sydney University. Maybe now he sees the farcical nature of those comments in the wake of the exploitation of the rules by schools like Scots and the benefits that money can buy. Maybe now he sees that for sport to be what it should it shouldn't just mean that right equals might.

    Commenter
    Ashbury Slim
    Location
    Ashbury
    Date and time
    July 29, 2014, 9:34AM
    • It's a bit rich of NFJ to gripe about this now when Grammar and High went through this a few years ago. The writing was on the wall back then with GPS schools gearing up there rugby programmes. It's especially specious when Newington last year fielded a superstar team (and were co-premiership winners) and now have gone from there to where they are now. The shoe (or striker high) on the other foot?

      Commenter
      SADP
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 10:06AM
    • Watching video of the game -there is NO mismatch in size and NO danger.
      Farr-Jones and Kearns should watch the video before making comments.

      Commenter
      STTF
      Location
      the Hill
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 12:47PM
  • In Rugby league they have the mercy rule. If the team is more than 50 points in front then the game is called off. This is a great rule. My son plays JRL and has been on both sides of it. There is no fun watching your team get smashed and on the flipside the it's not that fun to be smashing a hapless oppenent.

    Commenter
    JBD
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    July 29, 2014, 9:36AM
    • My son goes to Newington (lower age group) and I can tell you that the school has been devastated by a gastric bug that was brought back by the U15s from a Tongan tour.

      New will be a lot more competitive against Scots in the second round.

      Last year New were well beaten by Scots at home in the first round but spoiled Scots 'old boys day' in the second round to claim joint premiers.

      Don't under estimate the the spirit of the Wyvern.

      Commenter
      anonymous
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 9:54AM
    • I think it's better for older rugby boys to play it out and get some pride from containing the point score then go off forever wondering that they weren't going to get beaten by a 150 to nil! There are salient lessons to be learnt from even the worst hiding.

      Commenter
      SADP
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 10:09AM
    • Well the next Rugby League World Cup should be reduced to just about 6 or 7 countries then - no point in just trying to make up some numbers.

      Commenter
      BTW
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 10:13AM
    • I disagree. I love pummeling a hapless opponent. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger", and all that, you know?

      Commenter
      SS
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 12:47PM
    • Tongan tour lol

      Commenter
      SS
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 12:48PM
    • Why the Rugby League bashing? Bit childish......at least in RL forward passes are not routinely ignored by referees while vague, ambiguous refereeing decisions and 3-point penalties often decide matches.

      Commenter
      Get My Jaguar, Geeves!
      Location
      Point Piper
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 12:54PM

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