CRL Welcomes New Club Capability Manager George Lajpold
George Lajpold has bled black and gold during a lifetime in rugby league, but the Wellington and Randwick Kingfishers legend is relishing the prospect of heading south to join Canterbury Rugby League as its new Club Capability Manager.
A Kiwis representative in 1987, Lajpold was named in the Wellington Team of the Century in 2012 and was voted in as a Randwick life member this year, and has been heavily involved in coaching and administration in his home region since his playing days ended in the mid-1990s.
He moves to Christchurch to assume the newly-created role next week.
“It’s working with grassroots, and for me that’s what I like doing. I’ve always enjoyed doing that, I’ve done it up here in Wellington, I’m born and bred in rugby league,” Lajpold says.
“My family are fifth-generation Kingfishers, so rugby league has always been a part of my life.
“This is an opportunity for me to learn. There’s a little bit more to it with the infrastructure of rugby league in Canterbury and what’s done differently down there to up here.”
The key purpose of the Club Capability Manager is to help build strong and healthy clubs. Lajpold will be working with clubs, providing advice, guidance and planning support so they can work more effectively.
Canterbury Rugby League acknowledges that many of its clubs are doing great things, but at times there are some areas they may need some help with – and that’s where Lajpold’s experience will be invaluable.
“I love working with people, I love working alongside people and – whether that’s an individual or a team – seeing them grow and develop to their full potential,” he says.
“I’ve always been involved in that type of thing, whether that’s in my professional environment or in the sporting industry.”
Reconciling the interests and needs of individual clubs and the game as a whole is a perennial challenge for sporting organisations from grassroots through to the elite level, but Lajpold is confident that by working together and with CRL, Canterbury’s clubs will flourish.
“It’s about working alongside (clubs) and making sure we’re empowering one another, and supporting one another through the process of self-sustainability and building for the future.”
Lajpold has worked as an Operations Team Leader in a government role for Child, Youth and Family for the past seven years, leading and developing 44 residential staff and 12 supervised group home staff.
But he is no stranger to being employed fulltime in the sports sphere, or living in Canterbury – Lajpold spent a six-year stint in Christchurch with Touch New Zealand, which will help make his latest transition a smooth one.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work alongside (Canterbury Rugby League) and learning.
“It is a bit different working for a different association, but that’s part and parcel of what happens in life – you work with different groups of people.”
Though humble and understated about his playing career, Lajpold enjoyed a stack of highlights at club and representative level.
He was a stalwart for Randwick, Wellington and Central Districts, before representing Cook Islands in the 1986 Pacific Cup led into a watershed ’87 season.
Lajpold played for a New Zealand XIII line-up against a Queensland side featuring State of Origin megastars Wally Lewis, Allan Langer and Gene Miles at Carlaw Park, with the home side going down narrowly, 18-14.
He impressed sufficiently at fullback in that game to win selection in the Kiwis’ squad for a short tour of Australia and Papua New Guinea, playing his sole international match in the No.1 jumper in a 44-12 defeat of Northern Rivers at Lismore.
Fate intervened, however, and his trip ended before the Test phase of tour – including New Zealand’s famous 13-6 triumph over Australia at Lang Park.
“That was in the days when you could still make New Zealand teams from club footy. It was just about the end of an era at that stage,” Lajpold recalls.
“Unfortunately, I played a rep game on Saturday before we assembled for the Kiwis on the Sunday, and I got concussed in that game, and then in the Northern Rivers game I was concussed again so I ended up having the tour cut short.
“The following year I ended up blowing out my knee, so that was the end of the international career. I had a couple of knee operations as a result of it, but (playing for the Kiwis) was definitely one of the highlights.”
Lajpold did get a couple of cracks at the Kangaroos, though, turning out for Central Districts against Australia in 1985, and kicking three goals in Wellington’s 28-10 loss to the ’89 tourists, when he and Charlie McAlister teamed up in the centres against Maroons guns Peter Jackson and Dale Shearer.
His involvement has never waned since hanging up the boots, coaching the Kingfishers at premier level for a couple of seasons, and guiding the Randwick women’s team to grand final success this year against a Linton Cobras outfit that hadn’t lost a game in three years.
Lajpold has also served as a committee member and chairperson for Randwick, but now his attention will turn to the Canterbury club competition and the bumper period ahead for rugby league in the region.
“It is an exciting future (for Canterbury Rugby League) going forward. There’s also the potential of bringing in another New Zealand team (to the NRL) and strengthening Canterbury to put in a stronger bid, if that’s where the sport heads for us.
“But most definitely with the World Cup hitting our shores next year it’s going to be a great opportunity for our volunteers and grassroots people to be associated with that.”
Canterbury Rugby League wishes to welcome George to our team, and has no doubt he will prosper as our new Club Capability Manager.
WILL EVANS – CANTERBURY RUGBY LEAGUE