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NZSS Selection Eligibility

Show Profile  mattg Posted: 7 April 2016, 6:23 PM  
It is interesting to read in the recent NZ Schools team selection notice that those selected for JWOC or the Junior Pinestars are no longer eligible for selection. While this change doesn’t affect myself personally, I am still interested in hearing from those involved about why this policy has been put in place.

Presumably the main motive is to give athletes previously “just outside” selection the opportunity to gain some international racing experience. I agree that the NZSS team trips to Australia have hugely helped foster the development of many talented orienteers. But I am not so sure that making it “easier” for athletes to gain selection for the team is an appropriate way of building on the development of these up and comers. My opinion is that a New Zealand representative team should be at the premier level for all age groups, including school age. Excluding the small number of athletes at the highest level makes way for up and coming talent, but really dilutes the essence of a New Zealand team.

I wholeheartedly agree that trips to the Australian Champs are an excellent way for aspiring orienteers to take their racing a step further. However, there are ways of gaining this experience other than being accelerated straight into a NZ team. Myself and several of my peers have been fortunate enough in the past to benefit from large group trips to Australia organised by the likes of Rob & Marquita (without being selected for the Schools team). Each trip was lots of fun for everyone and we didn’t feel like we missed out on much by missing team selection. If anything it only made us work harder for the next year.

I would be interested in hearing what opinions people have on this. Talking with a lot of the other juniors at nationals, the general agreement was that the new policy takes away an element of competitiveness in team selection and actual racing over in Australia.

Show Profile  DMjunior Posted: 8 April 2016, 5:25 AM  
Well said Matt - totally agree!

Show Profile  Jane H Posted: 8 April 2016, 6:05 AM  
For the past years that I have been involved in bringing teams to Queen's B'Day weekend the JWOC team members of our region who have been at school have preferred to race in M/W20 level that weekend.

To me that was a clear indication those ones had "outgrown" any schools event, wished to be taken seriously above school level and were no longer interested in mere Aussie Schools Competition teams. The policy was, no doubt, written to reflect what seemed to be happening in reality.

The comments from Matt, on behalf of 2016's group, seem to reveal that I (and others) have read their actions entirely wrong.

Show Profile  DMjunior Posted: 8 April 2016, 8:47 AM  
Yes I think this might be the case. Queens Birthday is usually around 1 month from JWOC and is more often than not used as a "test" race for most JWOC Athletes, hence running the longer courses against tougher opponents.

It is only since last year that they made the schools trial involve Queens Birthday. It can also be said that the "schools competition" at Queens Birthday has varied in seriousness/formality since its inception. With ONZ arranging junior test matches on this weekend as well you wonder why they also make this a trial when its very possible an athlete would be eligible for that. Effectively you are saying to an athlete "would you like to run for NZ now, or later this year?"

Another view point to take on this would be what would the Australians think. We have to remember that they INVITE us to be a part of their schools competition, it is not our right. If we start rocking up with a development flavored team how will School Sport Australia take this (my guess is that it wouldn't be great).

I have no doubt how valuable the Australian Schools trip is for young orienteers, I have first hand experience. I think Matt makes a very valid point, should we be denying our very best runners the opportunity to gain further big race experience which we don't get often enough in New Zealand?

Without sounding like I am scare mongering, what is the incentive now for JWOC runners who are still at school to even bother with any of the schools orienteering?

And lastly, just an idea - we have a junior development squad - what about these guys have a camp that coincides with the Aus Champs? Im sure there would be many takers.

Anyway, that's what I think. I may have been out of the loop maybe but it does seem like this policy change has come as a surprise to many and perhaps needs to be discussed a little further.

Show Profile  mattg Posted: 10 April 2016, 7:44 AM  
Thanks for your comments Jane. As Duncan says, I don't think it is fair to compare the 2015 QB races (a schools team selection trial) with previous QB carnivals (not a trial). Last year there were 7 members of the JWOC team still at school - all of them raced in their schools grade over Queens Birthday.

It's unjust to make the assumption that the athletes in question have "outgrown" schools level orienteering. If this assumption were true, there would then be absolutely no reason to exclude the JWOC team members from selection, as presumably they have "outgrown" the desire to race in Australia. Whether each individual ultimately decides to race in Australia or not should be irrelevant - it is simply unfair to be excluding athletes from NZ team selection when they are of the correct age.

In fact, I read this as a direct contradiction of the ONZ Selection Policy 3.2, which states: "The objective of selection is to select a team which is likely to produce the most successful results at the
competition for which athletes are being selected." (retrieved from: I don't see why two completely separate selection procedures (JWOC and NZSS teams) should have any cross-over effect whatsoever. Quite simply, if an athlete meets the criteria for each individual team, then they should have to right to be eligible for selection. One selection process should not affect the other at all.

This discussion hasn't really gained the participation I had hoped for - I would still be interested in hearing from anyone directly involved. I may also have been out of the loop with this, but most people I have spoken to about this are just as surprised about it as I am. I do feel the issue deserves a bit of discussion.

Show Profile  Hamish Posted: 10 April 2016, 8:20 AM  
I am both shocked and amazed by this. Wholeheartedly behind Matt and Duncan. Is this some sort of 'namby pamby', everyone wins and gets a participation certificate stuff ?
Select the best team, always. You are making the kids have to decide whether to go to JWOC or Australia. If you don't get selected for NZSS and are keen enough you will find a way to get over there for that week.

Show Profile  PaulTS Posted: 11 April 2016, 4:11 PM  
I've not been involved with the decision, but was part of discussions on this topic last year. The JWOC team are stepping towards elite standard, and should be aiming high in their orienteering aspirations. I'd be more excited to see them in an 20E team competing for NZ against Australia, for example, than for the NZ Schools team in Australia.

Remember that the team to compete in Australia is competing against state teams. For test matches we will presumably continue to put the very best athletes available into the team irrespective of other considerations.

There are differences between inviting people along to gain experience, and putting them under the pressure of performing for the team. I personally like the idea of exposing a few more people to that pressure and seeing how they cope. In the bigger picture of improving the base of excellent athletes able to perform in higher pressure events, I think this is a win.

If I thought this meant we would be selecting a weak team who would not be able to perform to the level required, I would not support the criteria for 2016 team selection. There may be years when we are not blessed with the depth of junior talent that we now have. However I think this year we have the luxury of depth.

Show Profile  Martin Posted: 11 April 2016, 5:20 PM  
If the aim is to give more people exposure to orienteering overseas then Duncan's idea of a junior development squad trip seems logical - that's how the current NZ Schools team was started - a D Squad trip to South Australia in 2002 (there had been previous Southern Cross challenges in years before that). Thanks Ray Pratt for making it happen that year.

I fully support Matt, Duncan and Hamish's comments and find it difficult that what is quite a big decision has been sprung on these athletes. The schools team is the pinnacle of orienteering at school level, regardless of other representative commitments.

Selection criteria such as this shouldn't be put in place for one off years when there is a perception of a strong pool of talent; a selection policy should be consistent year to year. Don't create a moving target, policy dictates that the best possible team should be selected. Anything else opens a potential can of worms and unsatisfactory answers to people who end up missing out.

Show Profile  PaulTS Posted: 12 April 2016, 2:54 PM  
Please note I was trying to be careful to state my views, rather than claim to hold the wisdom of the decision makers on this. Please don't assume that their rationale is limited to mine!

On the related issue, the junior development committee is trying to set in place moves to get a development team to Australia. We would like to see more people gain that experience.

Not withstanding this, and some well thought through and clearly expressed comments from people in the comments above, I stand by my comment of liking the approach, which I think can provide long-term benefit to orienteering in NZ.

Show Profile  NSmith Posted: 12 April 2016, 4:36 PM  
I wasn't involved with the decision either, as it didn't come through the Junior Development Committee for consultation. However, I know it was mentioned at the heads of committee meeting late last year and some informal discussions have been going on for awhile.

As some have said it has been a surprisingly sudden change, with only a small note in the selection notice indicating the new approach. An explanation of the reasoning behind this is certainly warranted, and I would encourage anyone who feels strongly on this matter to email the ONZ council requesting one. Contact details can all be found here (

On the topic of the change itself, firstly we need to acknowledge that if we are sending a NZ Schools team then those who are in school do have a right to be selected to this team. It's unfortunate that the way the change has been implemented does not address this point.

As Paul has said already, the argument for this change is that it will build our depth by exposing more juniors to competition in Australia, especially amongst those who may not otherwise get the chance (for example if they're not involved with orienteering much outside school) However, as some have said the better way to do this is with the aforementioned schools development teams (Please note these are different to the development squad trips, development squad no longer exists under the new High Performance plan). It looks likely that an informal group will go over this year, with a more formal system being in place from 2017 onwards. If anyone is intending to go over and would like to volunteer to help manage the team, then please do get in touch with the Junior Development Committee.

Lastly I would like to address a couple of other comments made in this thread. I think that we are at a point where excluding the JWOC members from the schools will not have a large impact on the strength or the competitiveness of the schools team. JWOC members already choose not to out themselves forward for selection, it does not decrease the prestige of making the team.

Martin said that the schools team is the pinnacle of orienteering at a schools level, which I would argue is untrue if you have been selected to compete at JWOC. Similarly Duncan asked what the incentive is for JWOC runners to bother with the schools races. As an athlete you have to make sacrifices between the two, though JWOC should be the major focus. Personally, I don't believe that trying to do both in the same year is optimal, but if someone does want to then that is within their rights.

Queens Birthday is the only opportunity to host a home test-match with Australia, even if that means some of our runners may not be avaliable. Similarly the away testmatch is to be held in conjunction with the Australia Champs, so there are opportunities for JWOC and other athletes outside of the schools team (and as the travelling country we get to nominate team size.

The important point from all this is that thanks to some of the hard work put in behind the scenes by High Performance, Junior Development, Coaching etc, there are now a number of opportunities available for our top level juniors. This does mean some people will have to make sacrifices, and that some of our representative teams may have more of a development approach (which is good, we need more juniors involved!). However it's evident that more work and consultation needs to be put into determining this, and balancing the ambitions of individual athletes, considering what is best for athletes from a long-term developmental point of view and growing the sport as a whole by giving more opportunities to our juniors.

Nick Smith

Show Profile  mattg Posted: 12 April 2016, 5:54 PM  
Thanks for your responses. I agree that an explanation of the decision is warranted. The reason for me posting here in the public domain is mainly to inform people of the change and facilitate an open discussion - that's what maptalk is for right? Presumably, those directly affected by the policy change have already formally contacted ONZ if they feel strongly about it.

Nick, you acknowledge that "those who are in school do have a right to be selected to this team", which matches my point of view 100 percent. However in my opinion, there isn't any evidence to back up your statement that the strength of the team won't be impacted by exclusion of JWOC members. I also don't think this factor should even be relevant to the selection process. All that matters is that some age-eligible athletes are being completely denied a chance to be considered. The same applies to your point that some JWOC members choose to opt out of Schools Team selection - the end decision made by the athlete shouldn't affect the selection policy at all. Again, the obvious issue is that they aren't even going to be given an option when they should have a right to. In last years schools team there were four JWOC athletes. If the assumption that JWOC members don't go to Australia was true, then there wouldn't be any point in excluding them.

I am very grateful for the efforts by everyone involved behind the scenes and it isn't my intention to criticize anybody personally or undermine their work. I agree with, and appreciate the opportunities ONZ are developing and offering - but strongly believe any developmental initiatives need to be isolated from New Zealand teams. I stand by my opinion that the "New Zealand Representative Team" label should only be applied to a team where ALL eligible candidates have been fairly offered the opportunity of selection.

Show Profile  fraser Posted: 13 April 2016, 1:50 AM  
This is clearly a change in selection policy and therefore the change needs to be made formally to the policy. The proper processes need to be followed to avoid this type of situation, so an open discussion can be had before any change and the full consequences thought through.

Not much point in having a selection policy if it can be arbitrarily changed in the selection notice. I would hope that it is not too late for the announcement to be reversed. It does send a terrible message to our top juniors when they have spent thousands of dollars and hours of training, only to be excluded from a team for being too good.

On a positive note it is really great to see the depth of the junior fields continuing to grow.

Show Profile  NSmith Posted: 13 April 2016, 7:12 AM  
Matt, my comment on the competitiveness of the schools team was only meant in reply to previous comments. I did not mean to imply that if we exclude JWOC competitors the schools team is still competitive, therefore we should exclude JWOC runners, although I do concede that it could easily have been read as such. As you say, my overall position is that if we are selecting a NZ Schools Team then those at school have a right to be selected, and we should focus on getting development teams over there to increase depth.

Now back to my comment on the competitiveness of the team. Some earlier comments implied that not having JWOC members in the schools team would make it easier to make the team or maker the team itself less competitive. In reply, Paul said that "if I thought this meant we would be selecting a weak team who would not be able to perform to the level required, I would not support the criteria for 2016 team selection."

What I stated was that "we are at a point where excluding the JWOC members from the schools will not have a large impact on the strength or the competitiveness of the schools team." I agree with Paul's assessment. Yes, not having JWOC members as part of the schools team will have some effect, however we are lucky enough to now have the depth that this will not have a "large impact" on the competitiveness of the team. And again to reiterate, the above point is not intended to be taken as an argument in support of the change.

Finally, I would be wary of trying to isolate development initiatives and representative teams from one another. The aim of many of these teams is to aid long-term development towards senior elite level, and I can imagine some cases in which the athlete's ambition conflicts with what is best for their long-term development and what is best for the sport as a whole. Then there would be an argument for excluding some people from specific teams, but this has to be clearly communicated to everyone.

Show Profile  PaulTS Posted: 13 April 2016, 2:47 PM  
A last thought from me: We're not the only sport that struggles with what is the right thing to do in these sorts of situations. We've seen All Black sides selected which leave out leading players in order to widen the pool of experience under pressure. International soccer has a system of "friendlies", matches against other national teams which are inevitably used to see how a few new players respond to the challenge of representing their country.

1. I'd like to commend Matt for the very dignified atmosphere he's set up in discussing a tricky issue. Great job!

2. Whilst I've been clear on my personal view on this, I am happy to attempt to summarise what I think are the key elements of the discussion and pass it on for consideration if you'd like.

Key points in the discussion, not necessarily in order of importance:
1. There is a selection policy, which states that the most successful team possible should be selected. The current arrangement is contrary to that. If there is to be a change in the selection policy it should be fully aired and discussed.
2. There appears to have been no consultation with athletes on the arrangement in the selection notice.
3. JWOC athletes at school still aspire to being members of the NZ school team.
4. There is a risk to the quality and prestige of the NZ School team.
5. There are development advantages to broadening participation in the Australian competition.
6. There are selection advantages to knowing how athletes cope with the pressure to perform for a representative team.
7. There should be avenues for achieving participation and at maybe simulating the team pressure, perhaps by having a development team participate in the public races that operate in the week of the Australian State Champs.

Did I get the key points about right?

Show Profile  MikeB Posted: 25 April 2016, 4:46 PM  
I just wish to correct a couple points Matt made re last years QBday event.

In actual fact only 5 of the 7 students in the JWOC team competed. Alice and Sophie decided to run W20 and knowingly forgo any chance of selection for the NZSS team. Kayla who did run in the school's trial later declined selection.

This actually allowed to others to take their place and team namely Lara Molloy and Georgia Creagh. Their inclusion in no way affected the teams overall results showing we don't need to always have our very best athletes on hand to do the business and we have still have huge depth in talent.

The fact the three, Alice, Kayla and Sophie each made their own personal choice around not seeking selection speaks volumes for their maturity. Their decisions may also have been made based on it being their final year at school, and end of year exams needed more attention, than being selected in the school's team once again and a trip to Australia.

I think the option should be given where students can be be allowed to decide yes or no for themselves, whether they seek selection. Clearly by not running in the trials they make that statement.

Show Profile  DMjunior Posted: 27 April 2016, 6:08 AM  
I don't want to write an essay as there is already enough dialogue above around the issue.

What needs to happen now is ONZ should ideally come out with what they are trying to achieve here and perhaps recognize that their consultation process has failed in this case.

Not much point in going over these points again and again when we don't even know if any action has been taken to review this?

Lets hope that someone in ONZ does monitor Maptalk and will let us know what they are doing in this case.

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