Supporting the health, safety and well-being of those involved in Wellington rugby, for the good of the game and the communities where it's played is paramount.
Wellington Rugby works at every level of the game to support the wellbeing of those involved in rugby.
Player safety is at the heart of the game.
With almost 11,000 people registered to play rugby in Wellington in 2016 and with about 250 games played every week over a season - that's 5,000 games of rugby every year - unfortunately serious injuries can occur.
The primary activity for preventing injury is a compulsory coaching and refereeing safety course - RugbySmart which is a nationally run programme by NZ Rugby in partnership with ACC.
All coaches of rugby teams at Under 14 level and above must complete a RugbySmart Course every year as part of the coach registration process.
While one serious injury is one too many, since being introduced in 2001, RugbySmart has helped reduce very serious spinal and brain injuries from an average of 10 a year to less than 3, with ACC claim costs and total claims for Rugby having reduced year on year over the past three years.
Concussion can occur when a player receives an impact to the head or body that causes the brain to shake inside the skull. If a player is knocked out or loses consciousness they have obviously sustained a concussion, but it is important to remember that a person can be concussed without losing consciousness.
In 2016, Wellington Rugby is the second provincial union behind Northland Rugby to adopt the Blue Card Concussion Initiative. A Blue Card is issued to a player, who the referee suspects has suffered concussion on the field of play. The player must leave the field immediately and may not return until having completed the graduated return to play (GRTP) protocols - minimum 21 days for 19+ years and 23 days for under 19 players.
The Blue Card applies to Premier and Premier Reserve grades in the second round of competition and the Weltec 1st XV College Premiership during the 2016 season.
The Sideline Concussion Checklist is also an essential tool to use to determine signs and symptoms of concussion. If a player appears stunned, dazed or confused after an impact ask him or her to tell you which ground you are at, which team you're playing, which half it is and what the score is (or similar questions) to check if the player is aware of their surroundings and that their memory is working correctly.
The need for greater awareness of the symptoms and treatment of concussion is a priority in the RugbySmart programme and is a commitment from New Zealand Rugby and Wellington Rugby.
Through RugbySmart coaches, players and referees are taught to understand and recognise the symptoms of concussion and take responsibility for the players welfare if concussion is suspected.
There are clear guidelines that coaches must accept and players must follow before returning to play. Players must always get medical clearance before returning to training or play.
Wellington Rugby's position on concussion is clear, and includes the coaching commitment that 'good technique is safe technique'.
To find out more about NZR's concussion guidelines and what you - or someone you know - has to do to return to play when you've had a concussion, download the Returning to play following concussion flyer.
The SmallBlacks Development Programme ensures consistent playing, coaching and player welfare at all levels throughout the country.
The programme is designed to ensure that children develop their rugby skills as their physical ability develops, making the game as simple and safe as possible for all kiwi children, regardless of their age, shape or size.
For children under 10 there is no pushing and no contest in scrums. There is scrum contest and pushing only at U12 and U13. The push is limited to half a metre maximum.
One significant element is Rippa Rugby which has been introduced for players under the age of 13. It is a very safe, non-contact, easy-to-play game for both boys and girls.
The key factor to ensuring that rugby is safe and enjoyable for children is the quality of coaching they receive. Compulsory Small Blacks Coaching courses have been designed to up-skill junior coaches on the approved safe techniques for coaching children in a specific age grade.
The promotion of initiatives that create a safe environment for children's' participation in rugby is paramount to Wellington Rugby.
In 2012, New Zealand Rugby, trialled the requirement for Small Blacks coaches and referees to submit to a Police check as a condition of obtaining registration. This has subsequently been mandated across all provincial unions, including Wellington Rugby.
The programme will help ensure that persons involved in coaching or refereeing children under the age of 13 are free of relevant, previous criminal convictions.