Tony Hargood, CEO of Wairarapa Bush Rugby, and Joe Harwood, Wairarapa-Bush Heartland Coach. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Lisa Urbani

In February 2020, the ‘What About You?’ campaign, aimed at rugby clubs and supporters, was launched at a special screening of the movie, ‘The Ground We Won’, which followed a rugby club’s fortunes over one season of rugby.

“The feedback and support since then had been amazing”, said Tony Hargood CEO of Wairarapa Bush Rugby Union, “and we will kick off the campaign for the rugby season, on July 4 at grounds around Wairarapa”.

The film showed how the social drinking habits around rugby culture, could lead to harmful behaviour.

Excess drinking, is well known as a contributing factor in mental health problems, family violence, marriage breakdowns, illegal behaviour and suicide in some cases.

More than 150,000 Kiwis play rugby, coach and referee, and hundreds of thousands more are volunteers, parents, and fans.

With connections like this, rugby clubs are in a unique position to contribute to the conversation around drinking, mental health, and well-being.

As Tony said, “It’s about how we’re drinking and our club and team attitudes to alcohol”.

“We want to foster a club culture where people can enjoy a drink after the game but, without drinking to excess, or feeling pressured to drink, or excluded if they choose not to”.

Wairarapa-Bush Rugby’s new code of conduct aims to set clear expectations about alcohol use and behaviour in general in the rugby clubs in their network.

It is designed to support clubs to be safe, supportive and successful environments for the teams, their players, administrators and wider communities, and includes aspects such as fair play and responsible sideline behaviour, along with guidelines for alcohol use.

Kath Tomlinson, Senior Health Adviser from Tu Ora Compass Health which is supporting WBRU with the campaign said, “the campaign isn’t preaching to people about not drinking – it’s focused on encouraging people to make the right choice by asking – what about you? and what would you do? when it comes to attitudes to alcohol and drinking behaviour”.

She said through the campaign they also hoped to make it easier for people having concerns about their own alcohol use or that of friends or family members, to feel that they could ask for help.

“We have some fantastic alcohol and drug support services in Wairarapa, but not everyone’s aware of what’s available and how to access it.

“The campaign team have developed these discreet booklets that provide details of how to access these and national support services along with some tips for staying on track”.

Joe Harwood, Wairarapa-Bush Heartland’s coach, is also a campaign advocate.

“Coaches are in a position where they often notice if someone’s not feeling great or are struggling and so it’s helpful to have a campaign that enables us to link people to support services they may need.

“It’s been great over the years to see so many high-profile players from our sport stand up and share their challenges with mental health and alcohol issues in the hope of highlighting that anyone can be affected, and to encourage people to seek help.”

Rugby clubs do have a role to play in encouraging people to seek help, since they are a point of social contact, and alcohol issues are often a symptom of wider personal challenges that people are going through.

There is increased awareness of the mental health issues like depression and anxiety that can have such a huge impact on individuals and the people around them, affecting people across different age groups, social class levels and ethnicities.

“We want our rugby clubs to be places where we’d want to bring our families and where there is positive role-modelling about alcohol use for our kids and the future players coming through”, said Tony.

  • Feel free to contact Tony on (027) 473-8367 or by email tony@waibush.co.nz to discuss this campaign.